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Kirk Cousins Extension, Recent Moves Part of Vikings 'Competitive Rebuild'

EAGAN, Minn. — As the Vikings entered the 2022 offseason, many felt Minnesota had two ways to approach the coming months.

The Vikings could retain almost all of their big-name pieces from recent seasons and run it all back, hoping that wins in the margins elsewhere would produce more success than the roughly eight wins per season in each of the past four years.

Or, the Vikings could be sellers, trading off those notable names with an eye on the future, even while knowing the short-term outlook might be altered a bit.

But that's not the way Kwesi Adofo-Mensah viewed things when he took over as Minnesota's general manager.

"I think when people look at teams, they sometimes do it in a very binary way," Adofo-Mensah said. "And they ask, 'Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?' And I don't really look at the world that way.

"The way we look at it is we're trying to navigate both worlds," Adofo-Mensah added. "We're trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however you want to phrase it or market it, and so I think that's kind of how we've approached this offseason."

Adofo-Mensah's words are a common theme among all GMs across the league, whether it be at the combine or during the draft.

And as Adofo-Mensah tries to keep an eye on both the short- and long-term solutions, his first major move this offseason — a one-year extension for Kirk Cousins — was geared toward more immediate success.

The Cousins extension provided both cap space and roster flexibility for the Vikings, while also tying the quarterback and the team together through the 2023 season.

When asked Wednesday about potentially trading Cousins, which would have been categorized more as a move for a long-term outlook, Adofo-Mensah said the chance to pair the quarterback with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was too good to pass up.

"I'll probably never get up here and talk about calls that are made here or not made here," Adofo-Mensah said. "But I will say when I got to this building and I thought about team building with Kevin, it's really just about, 'We have a really good player.'

"I met with Mike [McCartney], his agent, we had a great dinner. We have a personal, mutual connection so we got along great," Adofo-Mensah continued. "We just talked about forming a partnership together and seeing how high we can take this thing together. Having stability at that position, which is a really important position.

"Kevin has a great term: 'We do things on our terms. We do things on our terms on the field,' and I also think that applies to team building," Adofo-Mensah added. "Getting him in the fold, getting him to buy in, I really think was a win-win solution. Again, he gave up things to make this partnership work, and we're excited to have him."

Cousins threw for 4,091 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017, when O'Connell was Cousins' position coach in Washington.

And even though Cousins has put up plenty of strong stats in Purple with just one playoff trip in four seasons, Adofo-Mensah said he and O'Connell believe there is more fruit on the tree when it comes to their starting quarterback.

"Football's one of those sports [where] you're looking for three plays a game, right?" Adofo-Mensah said. "Can you get them in second-and-6 versus second-and-11. Can you eliminate some of the stuff, the bad things that can happen? That's not Kirk, that's any player.

"And so, we look. We always talk about winning on the margins and things like that. You can win on the margins from a personnel basis by putting him in better situations, from a scheme basis, putting him in better situations," Adofo-Mensah added. "The cool thing about football is that it's so complex, interconnected. Small things can have big outcomes … 80 percent of the games are within one score, all those things. So we're just searching for those margins, those little things to get us where we want to go with Kirk and the rest of the roster."

The decision to extend Cousins wasn't the only move made to hopefully bring immediate success to a franchise that hasn't been above .500 in the regular season in more than 800 days.

The Vikings would like to work out a long-term deal with Danielle Hunter after converting a sizable roster bonus into a signing bonus that freed up dollars to sign Za'Darius Smith to a three-year contract. Minnesota also reworked Adam Thielen's contract, which allowed the Vikings more short-term cap space.

Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday that the decision was made to give it a go with the current core in place rather than trade players away, tear it down and look for the future.

"You try to be solutions-oriented with everything you have," Adofo-Mensah said when asked if he had considered trading away any big-name players. "You have challenges from all sides. Players have needs, we have needs; just trying to do the best you can for all parties involved.

"Sometimes that involves doing nothing, staying in the same place, coming back and, 'Let's be great together, and we'll figure out things after that,' " Adofo-Mensah continued. "It's just, 'Be really smart and empirical and probabilistic about what the outcome will be. What will the needs be and when will it come?'

"This exercise, it's not perfect. It's part art and part science," Adofo-Mensah added. "But we're just intentional about what we do and we're open to the fact that things we do are uncertain. But that doesn't scare us."

The offseason is far from over, and Adofo-Mensah will likely make moves that signal an eye on four or five years from now, too.

But the ones he's made in the past week-plus, most notably with Cousins, signal that the Vikings plan on being in the postseason in 2022 after a two-year absence.

"It's just about adding great players, great pieces around the core that we have," Adofo-Mensah said. "And there's ways to do that, there's ways to do that in free agency or the draft or the trade market or player development.

"And so we're just being careful about that, understanding the reality of where we are and what things give us the odds of getting where we want to be," Adofo-Mensah added. "There's no fear of a problem as long as you understand the depths of the problem and really, how to solve it."