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Adofo-Mensah on Vikings Trade: 'The Best Flexibility for Whatever'

EAGAN, Minn. — The 2024 Vikings offseason included some mirror time and some mapping of routes.

Heading into the third offseason for Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, the team has reflected on its approach so far and refined its process to map out this year's course of action.

"You just put yourself in the situation, look at all your options … have parameters and vision. And then the options kind of make the decisions for you, in a sense." Adofo-Mensah said Monday as a guest on KFAN's 9 to Noon show with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen. "Everything's on the table, and we're trying to do our best to compete for a long time.

"We're entering year three, so we're growing in the same way that a young player would grow," Adofo-Mensah added. "I think we had a great offseason, had a lot of, you know, look-in-the-mirror moments: 'How do we get better? How do we communicate better? How do we [improve] as a group?' And we've done that, and we've had probably our best conversations as a team. Everybody's been pointed the same direction. And I think that's the result that you've seen – just everybody pointing the same way, communicating well, and obviously, it's not perfect. We'll always keep trying to get better. But we're really happy about where we are as a group."

It's been a wild first week of free agency for the Vikings, who began moving on from Kirk Cousins last Monday, reached a deal with running back Aaron Jones, made a wide splash in the first hours of free agency, executed a big trade Friday and continued evaluating other free agents.

Here are five takeaways from the talker.

What was gained in the trade?

The Vikings sent their second-round (42nd overall) pick this year, a 2025 second-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round selection (188th) to the Texans in exchange for the 23rd overall pick and a seventh-round pick (232nd overall) in this year's draft.

The aggressive move gives the Vikings two selections in the first round (joining the 11th overall pick) and tons of flexibility.

Adofo-Mensah explained what went into the decision.

"We just looked at every scenario and said, 'OK, well, what if this happens, how would you play this out? Or this happens? How would you play this out?' And we just thought that that move gave us the best flexibility for whatever can happen.

"Ultimately, teambuilding isn't this one-size-fits-all exercise," Adofo-Mensah added. "There's ways you can build a championship team with certain types of quarterbacks, certain types of players around them. And we're trying to set ourselves up to be one of those and ultimately be in that last game."

The Vikings can keep both selections, or package one or both with something else in order to move up the board.

"I would say at this point, there's a preferred scenario, but you know, the process is ongoing," Adofo-Mensah offered. "We haven't finished all our evaluations, we're still vetting all the different options that are available at every position. So you know, I would say that right now there's a preference, but these are things that update in real time as we get new information."

What did the Vikings see in and project for Darnold?

Plenty of attention during the press conference with Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell last Thursday centered on the quarterback position where the Vikings added Sam Darnold in free agency and have Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall returning under contract.

Allen followed up to get a few more thoughts from Adofo-Mensah on why the Vikings signed Darnold to a one-year deal.

"We like his skill set that he brings to the table. Again, you're talking about somebody who's talented – a team took him No. 3 overall," Adofo-Mensah said. "And you talk about the life cycle of a quarterback and how they grow. And on average, when did they hit their peak or whatever? And there's a reason. Number of reps in practice, first game, seeing different coverages, making decisions. And then you talk about the context around them – what offensive line are they playing with, what system? Who were they throwing to? All those things matter. And so we looked at Sam as somebody we think could give us a performance at that position. It'll look different than Kirk, obviously. Different players, but we're happy about what it can look like.

Allen and Adofo-Mensah also discussed Darnold's potential for making off-schedule plays and a mobility that some may undervalued.

"I think we talked about on-schedule, off-schedule, and 'Can you make plays outside of the confines of what Kevin called?' And we think he has that ability to correct some mistakes," Adofo-Mensah said. "It's not just that he's fast, but I think he's physical. He's not an easy guy to bring down to the ground, and he can reset platforms in the pocket when it's not always clean. And then yeah, it's third-and-3 and they're playing two-man, he can get up and get you the first down."

How Jones quickly became 'best option'

Jones' addition became possible before free agency opened because the veteran running back had been released by Green Bay.

The acquisition of Jones happened fast.

"I think that's just having good relationships," Adofo-Mensah explained. "Once it hit the wire, we called his agent, who we have a great relationship with, and said, 'How do we get this done? How do we get him here?'

"We talked earlier about vision and parameters. We identified the type of player we wanted, and we had other options, but then the second he became available, he became the best option and so we went after that," Adofo-Mensah added. "Talk about collaboration between scouting and coaching. Everybody unanimously agreed that that's somebody we wanted to bring in from a playing standpoint."

New wave of defensive players

The first wave of additions to the Vikings defense featured outside linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, along with linebacker Blake Cashman, players the Vikings believe are heading into the prime of their careers.

Adofo-Mensah described Greenard as a player who can fire off the line of scrimmage and win quickly when rushing the passer but also play the run "with as much violence and impact as he does in the pass game."

"There's a value to getting off the ball that even if the ball is, if the player doesn't make a sack or doesn't pressure the quarterback, there's just a value to getting off the ball and stressing the tackle and kind of taking the fight to him," Adofo-Mensah said. "So really excited about him."

Adofo-Mensah described Cashman, the former Eden Prairie state champion and Golden Gopher, as an "incredibly high-level athlete."

"Incredibly impactful. I think he could be one of the best coverage linebackers in the game," Adofo-Mensah said. "I think in the run game, his diagnose, his ability to get downhill, and his ability as a rusher is going to help us tremendously."

Instincts blend with play speed for Cashman, Adofo-Mensah said, before referring to Van Ginkel as "Mr. Do Everything" on defense. Van Ginkel was drafted by Miami when Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores was the head coach of the Dolphins.

"Brian's been talking about him since he got here," Adofo-Mensah said. "I think that was one of the first players he told me about and you know, sometimes you have to see it, see it for yourself, in its full bloom. I think Flo' always knew that he had that. He's believed in him since he had him. He knew what type of year he was going to have."

The Vikings then added defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, who was a first-round pick by the Chargers in 2019 and joined the Raiders during the 2022 season. Adofo-Mensah said the Vikings liked some of what they saw on Tillery's 2023 tape.

"I think you started to see some of the first-round potential, but that position and a lot of positions are about consistency. 'How often can you play above the line? How often can you limit, almost like golf, can you limit your bad shots — especially in an interior position like that in the run game?' And I think he's starting to take that step," Adofo-Mensah said. "And then you see the flashes of that high-end, first-round talent in that interior pass rush when he kicks inside to the 3-technique. I think we're excited about that. Again, similar to the other players, I think we're getting him at a place in his NFL career where he's approaching that 10,000 hours. And there's upside and we're excited about seeing, like you said, Flo' gets the best out of our players, not just Flo'. Sorry that whole coaching staff. But we're excited about what he can be at the Vikings."

The impact of retaining Quessenberry and Brandel

The lesser-discussed element of free agency is when teams retain valuable players who round out the roster.

Minnesota was able to retain two offensive linemen it has called on in some big moments by bringing back tackle David Quessenberry and versatile 2020 sixth-round pick Blake Brandel.

Quessenberry was originally a sixth-round pick by Houston in 2013. His NFL debut was delayed by a cancer diagnosis that he was able to defeat. He played for the Texans, Titans and Bills on the way to signing with the Vikings just before the 2023 season. Quessenberry stepped in by Week 2 at Philadelphia and then found out the morning of Week 9's game at Atlanta he was going to start in place of Christian Darrisaw.

"You talk about somebody who's able to handle curveballs, when you go through the life experience that he went through, you talk about curveballs in life. He's beaten a disease that you know, a lot of people haven't, and he does it with a smile on his face," Adofo-Mensah said. "And that's just like he is in football. When he got thrown into that [Falcons] game, he's just like, Yeah, let's go. That's just the mindset he has and it's great for that room. Great for our team. Just excited to have him and what he brought to our team last year and continue to bring."

In the 2023 finale, Quessenberry started at right tackle in place of Brian O'Neill and Brandel started at right guard in place of Ed Ingram. Brandel has appeared in 39 games with five starts and has worked at multiple spots along the line, whether at guard or tackle or maybe even center.

"He plays with good length, good pad level, just really smart," Adofo-Mensah said. "As things are happening quickly, he's very quick to react and understand what he needs to do.

"You talk about a work ethic, you know, a guy who stays after practice. If he was a starter or the eighth man, I think he's still gonna stay after practice," Adofo-Mensah said. "He's got that mindset, somebody who's great in that room. So we've been excited about him. I'm really excited that he'll be a Viking for a few more years."