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Adofo-Mensah: Vikings Assessing Current Cornerbacks & Open Avenues

EAGAN, Minn. — Free agency of the 2022 NFL offseason turned a week old Wednesday, and Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah provided an update on the team's first foray under him and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.

The Vikings started the process by signing Kirk Cousins to a one-year extension that included benefits for the team and the player, particularly in creating salary cap space for additional moves.

Much of Minnesota's focus has been placed on addressing the defense, particularly the front seven as it introduces more 3-4 concepts under new Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell. Those moves included the addition of nose tackle Harrison Phillips and inside linebacker Jordan Hicks out of the gate. It also included Tuesday's signing of outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and the long-term plans to retain Danielle Hunter.

"We're all aligned on what our vision is and how we see the needs of our team this year, next year and overall our whole time horizon," Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday. "I think when people look at teams they sometimes do it in a very binary way. 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," he continued. "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 and our time horizons going forward."

Now that that's all been addressed, the next wave of attention is likely to be placed on Vikings cornerbacks where only Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand and Parry Nickerson are under contract for 2022.

Adofo-Mensah was asked about veteran Patrick Peterson, who signed a one-year deal with Minnesota last season and added veteran leadership and solid play (and a fun pick-six for the Vikings final touchdown of 2021). Peterson played his first 10 seasons (2011-20) in Arizona and made the Pro Bowl after each of his first seasons.

"He texted me the other day. Pat Pete's a great person, a great player in this league for a long time," said Adofo-Mensah, who worked in San Francisco from 2013-19. "I was in his division and that was always a tough day going against him. Again, we're trying to be solutions-oriented about everything we do here. You want to make sure you respect a player of his caliber, his expertise in this league, but also the reality of the situation we're in from a salary cap standpoint. Again, those conversations are ongoing, and we're trying to work through those problems as we can."

View the best photos of Vikings CB Patrick Peterson from the 2021 season.

Peterson has started all 167 regular-season games he's played, totaling 29 interceptions and 96 passes defensed. The three games he missed because of a hamstring injury suffered at Carolina last season were the first he had ever missed because of an injury.

Dantzler is by far the most experienced corner on Minnesota's current roster with 17 starts and 25 games. He's had some great plays, as well as some critical lapses but could benefit with a clean slate as he heads into his third pro season and second full offseason program (his first was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Boyd has played mostly on special teams in 41 games, but he has made six starts in his first three seasons.

After appearing in 14 games as a rookie in 2020 and gaining experience in the slot, Hand appeared in just nine games in 2021, because Minnesota brought back Mackensie Alexander on a one-year deal and because of COVID-19 protocols.

Nickerson has appeared in 25 total games over the past four seasons, including four with Minnesota in 2021.

Adofo-Mensah said the Vikings are evaluating the players who were signed or drafted by previous Vikings leadership through a lens of, "If everybody is their best self, as they mature in their careers, what can that be? What does that mean when we have them?"

"We're ongoing with that. We like some of the youth we have. We think guys have a chance to play well," Adofo-Mensah said. "This is going to be a little bit of a different scheme, so it's not exactly relatable to what they were doing previous to now, and also, yeah, you're open.

"You have avenues. Free agents are there. The draft is there," Adofo-Mensah added. "We're excited about what we have, what we like, what we have, everywhere else around them. And again, in this defense, a lot of the things that we do are designed to help the cornerbacks on the outside. So that's kind of how we've approached this, this time."

A highly effective pass rush can help the secondary immensely and vice-versa. A big part of the Vikings struggles the past two seasons is the team didn't get enough of either, or at least a timely combination that could have helped in critical junctures of games.

Yes, the draft is a little more than a month away, but the reality is that free agency will continue in the weeks leading up to it and likely in the weeks beyond it. Help and depth at the position could come from both directions.

Adofo-Mensah quipped that members of the personnel department are always hungry to sign more players, but he said the Vikings "are allowed to be very patient, really selective in what we do."

"Honestly, it feels like my old trading days, where I was responsible for taking the risk, but you had people giving you ideas all the time," Adofo-Mensah said. "You had a research and strategy group, you had third-party services, and you're just looking for ideas. It's ultimately my job and Kevin's job and [Rob Brzezinski's] job to sign off on that final idea, but we just love ideas, we love information. That's what it is and these guys are probably blowing up my phone right now giving me great ideas, so we'll keep exploring those."