Vikings GM Somehow Made His Worst Mistake Even Worse

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

There has always been a chance that the 2024 offseason could be tumultuous for the Minnesota Vikings, with a couple of star players potentially leaving the organization. Quarterback Kirk departed after six seasons of leading Minnesota’s offense. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acquired Sam Darnold in free agency and J.J. McCarthy in the first draft round to replace him.

Vikings GM Somehow Made His Worst Mistake Even Worse

Vikings GM Somehow Made His Worst Mistake Even Worse
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The other top player who left is pass-rusher Danielle Hunter. He had been with the Vikes for all nine seasons of his career. Similarly to Cousins, he has been replaced by free agents (Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard) and a draft selection in the first round (Dallas Turner).

Letting Hunter go in the first place may have been a massive mistake, regardless of his replacements. He is an annual star pass-rusher coming off his best season in the sacks category. The campaign concluded with a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Prior to last season, Hunter held out of training camp as he was due to receive a relatively small salary of $5.5 million. That was certainly understandable. The franchise failed to agree on a contract extension and instead bumped his salary. It was a drastic raise, but nothing changed beyond the 2023 season. He was still scheduled to enter free agency.

Danielle Hunter
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is sacked hard by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second quarter of the NFL Week 15 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at PayCor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

When the trade deadline approached, the Vikings were 4-4, and their quarterback Cousins had just torn his Achilles tendon. Trading Hunter for draft compensation was possible, although that deal would’ve hurt the defense. However, at that time, nobody expected the Vikings to really compete for a Super Bowl with Nick Mullens or Jaren Hall under center.

Adofo-Mensah kept his star defender, perhaps hoping to extend his contract in the upcoming offseason. The season ended with a 7-10 record, and Hunter exited to join his hometown, the Houston Texans.

The good news is that the Vikings were scheduled to earn a wonderful compensatory pick. When an expensive free agent leaves, the team losing that player is compensated and can get a third-rounder at best.

Both Cousins and Hunter were scheduled to land Minnesota a total of two picks in the third round of the 2025 draft because they signed large contracts with their new teams.

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But there’s a problem. When the old team signs free agents, those count against that formula. After the first wave of free agency, Minnesota was still on pace to earn those two third-rounders. Then, the Vikings added cornerback Shaquill Griffin and the math changed.

Nick Korte, a contributor at Over the Cap, is monitoring the situation, and he shared the bad news with Skol Nation.

The Vikings were expected to possibly see two players, Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter, leave the team for top tier deals elsewhere, and that is what happened. The Vikings also lost several other CFAs, but were also aggressive in signing CFAs of their own to offset some of those departures. Nonetheless, they had at least balanced this to where the 3rd rounders for both Cousins and Hunter leaving were on the board…until they signed Shaquill Griffin to a one year, $4.55 million contract, leaving the Vikings with a net loss of only 1 CFA, giving the formula no choice but to cancel out Hunter’s contract with Griffin’s.

Nick Korte

Signing Griffin was reasonable. He is a veteran defender who can provide experience to a young cornerback group. Still, the Texans cut him just last season, and he was picked up by the Panthers, where he played a minor role. The 28-year-old is no longer the Pro Bowler he was in 2019.

Is Griffin worth the (roughly) 100th pick in the 2025 draft? That remains to be seen, but the calculation will be made from now on.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Long story short, Adofo-Mensah failed to extend Hunter’s contract last offseason, didn’t trade him at the trade deadline during the season to generate a draft pick, couldn’t prevent him from leaving in free agency, and then fumbled the compensatory pick.

The executive either expected someone else to be signed before the deadline, especially Dalton Risner, who can’t find a team for the second straight offseason, or they thought Griffin was worth a third-rounder in 2025.

It was a strange chain of events. The only good aspect is that the GM acquired three solid pass-rushers, and the trio is certainly one of the strongest areas of the defense.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt