EAGAN, Minn. – Plenty of math is required — and multiple variables considered — when assembling an NFL team's 53-man roster.
It's not all numbers, though. Arriving at the final roster involves difficult decisions and even tougher conversations.
The Vikings on Tuesday and Wednesday executed multiple transactions to arrive at the current group. General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, both new to their positions, spoke with Twin Cities media members Thursday and talked about their process.
Adofo-Mensah emphasized the importance of "leaving no stone unturned" during this time of year and explained the decision to acquire wide receiver Jalen Reagor from the Eagles via trade.
"We're always looking at opportunities to improve the team," Adofo-Mensah said. "We saw Jalen as somebody who has a really great skill set individually but also how he complements that room – and then also our offensive football team."
O'Connell said Reagor will be given "every opportunity" to claim the punt return job in Minnesota, a role that hadn't been solidified throughout training camp and the preseason.
"Jalen's excited about that opportunity. I think he's got some good experience doing that, obviously some real flashes of doing that at a high level," O'Connell said. "We'll get him going from day one today and see where's he at going into Green Bay and see if he's comfortable going back there.
"If he's our best option in our opinion to give us a chance to impact the game, he'll be back there," O'Connell added.
Whenever a player is added, though, it necessitates a corresponding move.
The Vikings opted to waive 2021 draft pick and fellow receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in order to create room on the roster for Reagor.
"Smith-Marsette's a really great kid. He had a great summer. We think he has a bright future," Adofo-Mensah said. "The NFL gives you 53 spots and 16 practice squad [players], and you have to follow those rules, and sometimes those are tough decisions you have to make."
Similarly, the Vikings traded a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to Houston in exchange for defensive lineman Ross Blacklock and a 2023 seventh-round pick, then waived defensive lineman Armon Watts.
The decision to cut Watts surprised many, as the fourth-year player – who was claimed by Chicago – had practiced for much of the summer with Minnesota's first-team defense.
Adofo-Mensah noted that Blacklock fulfills a specific style of player that can help the team.
"We thought that was an opportunity to add somebody in Blacklock who's got a really good pass-rush skill set, really disruptive in that phase. In the run game, also disruptive. So we're trying to add that skill set," Adofo-Mensah explained.
"That was a hard conversation with Armon – somebody who's been here for three years, been productive, great teammate, great person," he continued. "There are times in those meetings where how it goes, you wish you could take it back."
Adofo-Mensah later added that Watts did have "a really good camp" and the transaction wasn't really performance-based.
"It was more about the player we could add, the circumstances around that, and then the fit for the rest of that room and that front seven," he said.
Blacklock and Reagor, who teamed together at TCU, have posted stats in their first two seasons that, it's probably fair to say, have been lower than initially projected.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
Adofo-Mensah was asked if he puts more weight on pre-draft evaluations or the tape each player has put out in his first NFL stops with Houston and Philadelphia, respectively.
"Kevin and I get together with our new staff … and talk about the player that we saw them being coming out [of college] and also the new information we've gotten," he answered. "All of that is combined into our decision, and ultimately it's not a perfect science; it's a little bit of art, a little bit of science, and we like the decision we made."
Another difficult decision faced by O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah was trading guard Jesse Davis to Pittsburgh.
The move came after rookie Ed Ingram earned the starting right guard spot during training camp.
"That was a hard conversation, because all [Jesse's] done since he got here was be a huge focal point leadership-wise in that O-Line room for [offensive line coach Chris Kuper]," O'Connell said. "We were able to find an opportunity for Jesse to go start, which at this point in his career he's done a lot of, and deserves a chance to."
O'Connell said Davis was "very much in the conversation" that led to the Steelers being a trade partner for the 30-year-old.
Though never easy to part ways with a well-respected player, O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah feel confident about where Minnesota's offensive line stands heading into Week 1 against Green Bay.
"Feel really good about that O-Line room, the depth," O'Connell said. "A lot of coaches can sit up here and say that, but I can promise you I feel really good about our guys we're keeping on the roster – and then the guys we're able to get to our practice squad and ultimately helping us withstand 17-plus games of how [we want] to play."