It's hard to believe that more than a full year has passed since Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took the helm in Minnesota.
With his first year as Vikings general manager in the rearview mirror, Adofo-Mensah is currently in Indianapolis for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, where he made multiple media appearances Tuesday morning.
In addition to his podium session with NFL media members, Adofo-Mensah also joined Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager on air and was a guest interview on KFAN's 9 to Noon with Paul Allen and Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson.
Adofo-Mensah reflected with Good Morning Football on his rookie season as general manager, in which the Vikings went 13-4 and clinched a playoff spot. While he certainly would have liked to see the Vikings defeat the Giants and advance in the postseason, he emphasized the culture that was established over the past several months.
"Those are the memories – those moments, when things get tight, that things are gonna go your way. I don't think those things can ever be replaced," Adofo-Mensah told Schrager. "You have to build them step by step, player by player, moment by moment. We got to do that 13 times; all the one-score games, showing up in the playoffs. Those young players that were part of it, that might not have even been on the field, saw what that outcome was, right? And that's so critical.
"And then it's just the bonding with the staff – with my personnel staff – and the players," he added. "Establishing what we've built and how we're gonna play. And I think it's real. It's genuine."
Adofo-Mensah expounded with Schrager on his close bond with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, and he told Allen and Henderson that new Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores was a "home-run hire" for the organization.
Below are four more takeaways from Adofo-Mensah's combine media rounds.
1. The question of contracts | By Lindsey Young
This time of year, it's the question everyone wants to know: What will the 2023 Vikings roster look like?
Which current Vikings will hit free agency? Which will sign extensions? Are there players who might be released?
Adofo-Mensah fielded questions about specific positions and players, including star receiver Justin Jefferson. The 2020 first-round draft pick remains on his rookie contract, but Adofo-Mensah was asked about his "priority level" for signing Jefferson to a long-term extension.
He didn't mince words.
"I don't want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team, so it's a priority," Adofo-Mensah said. "We have to make sure we do it in an order that we can do it in given all the other decisions we have to make."
When it comes to Jefferson and wanting to keep him in Minnesota, it's about more than just his elite football talents.
"The human is even better. Seeing it up close every day … he just wants to win," Adofo-Mensah said. "The first time I met him actually, we walk in the building, and I made a joke about something else that was happening at the wide receiver position at the time and about their contracts and [he] just laughed and said, 'We won't have any issues.' He said, 'I just want to put wins on the board.'
"The way he said it, that's the guy you see on Sundays. Won't turn down double teams, whole defense trying to stop him, and he's trying to put the Minnesota Vikings on his back and wants to win a championship," Adofo-Mensah continued. "When you have guys like that in your building, try everything you can to not let them out."
View photos of current Vikings players during their time at the NFL Scouting Combine from previous years.
He responded to a question about "Dalvin" that was referencing Cook and also used the opportunity to talk about defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who is slated to hit free agency when the New League Year begins on March 15.
In talking about Cook, Adofo-Mensah acknowledged, "You have a lot of constraints with the salary cap and different things, so just trying to figure out how we can operate within those things."
"Always starts with a great player and a great leader, and we'll go from there," he added.
Adofo-Mensah said the Vikings "want to do everything they can" to keep good players in the locker room.
"Obviously, we have a lot of decisions to make, so we're trying to buy ourselves a little more time. If [Dalvin Tomlinson is] listening and he comes back, I'll make sure to get him my shoe plug that he always asks me for," he quipped. "He's a great guy, great player, and we love him."
The other personnel inquiry to Adofo-Mensah regarded if Minnesota's linebacker corps will be a focal point this offseason.
"It's a position just like every other position we look at. We have a lot of confidence in Brian Asamoah. … Troy Dye is a very good player. William Kwenkeu showed some really good things on special teams," Adofo-Mensah said. "So we're going to take a look at that like we do with every position, but we have decisions to make just like everybody else does there."
2. Evaluating the QB position | By Lindsey Young
It's no secret that Adofo-Mensah is a "numbers guy," considering his economics degrees and background on Wall Street.
So when the general manager was asked during his podium session about his approach to evaluating the quarterback position, he responded with a smile.
"Let's go full numbers," Adofo-Mensah he said. "We talk about necessary and sufficient conditions, right, in math. So necessary condition is having a starter-level quarterback, a quarterback above a certain threshold. Now that doesn't mean for sure you're going to win, that's not the only thing you need, but that is one of the things you need.
"Having a good level quarterback is a necessary condition. Kirk meets that threshold, so we know that," Adofo-Mensah continued. "OK, well now how do you build the rest of the team around him to make sure that you can win in that way? Different quarterbacks require different things around them, but we know that for sure, he meets that threshold."
Adofo-Mensah noted that he and his personnel department must ask "How long does he meet that threshold?" and "Is there a chance to add somebody maybe with different skill sets?"
"Those are all questions we've got to answer, so there's not one right way, but I do know one thing: I know he is good enough," he said of Cousins. "He meets that first threshold, and that's a question that a lot of [teams] can't answer with a 'yes,' so we've got to make sure we treat that in the proper importance that it is."
Adofo-Mensah was also asked about Cousins' future with the Vikings during his interview with GMFB.
"First and foremost, I want to appreciate how great of a player he is. … He's one of the best pure throwers in the league. I don't know that I'll be around another one as good as him," Adofo-Mensah told Schrager. "[He] stepped up in big moments, critically, when we needed it. Made a lot of plays.
"We're just trying to find great solutions. Solutions that fit our two-year, three-year time horizon involving Kirk," he added. "But ultimately our goal is to put together a championship team, and if you think you can't meet that threshold, you have to maybe look around, do something else. But we want Kirk to be a part of that; he's a great player."
3. The path to the draft | By Sam Thiel
Of the 10 Vikings players who were drafted in 2022, seven recorded at least 100 total snaps. Four players (Ed Ingram, Asamoah, Akayleb Evans and Jalen Nailor) had 200 or more snaps, with Ingram (1,249 total snaps) and Asamoah (404 total) posting the two highest snap count totals in Adofo-Mensah's first draft class.
Adofo-Mensah said while it's less difficult financially to build a roster through the draft compared to free agency, it can't be the team's entire foundation, either.
"I think what you want to do, obviously you want to make sure that you build in the draft because the access to the best players – the players with the best ceilings – typically is in the draft, right? Free agency does happen, and there are some players that shake free in free agency, but now every team wants that guy," Adofo-Mensah said. "That's a competitive market, and now the prices got a little bit higher. Now in the draft, you have a chance to get them, build them in your building, build the culture with them.
"But the issue is, as a GM, my job isn't just to hit on draft picks. It's not some dart board I'm just throwing. The job is to build a championship team within the time window," Adofo-Mensah continued. "It's my job to put it all together within the same timeframe, same horizon. So it's really just, a lot of different lessons that I've learned from various studies I've done to kind of put it together, but there isn't just one right way. It's just a lot of smart, intentional decisions that you make."
Adofo-Mensah added the team doesn't get much time to meet with players at the combine and he must make sure they're efficient with their evaluations.
"We are very intentional about our process and what we're asking, what we're trying to gain. It's 18 minutes, or whatever it is, so you want to be sure that you can do the best you can with 18 minutes and not try to do 10 different things poorly. Maybe do three things OK. So that's what we try to do," Adofo-Mensah said. "I love the environment we've created. We've got a lot of smart people that put together our questions and things like that. Every little bit of it's detailed."
4. Assessing the value of draft picks and free agents | By Sam Thiel
While the Vikings relied a lot on their rookie class in 2022, Minnesota also leaned heavily on its free agency signings as well, including Patrick Peterson, Za'Darius Smith, Jordan Hicks, Harrison Phillips and Chandon Sullivan on the defensive side of the ball.
Adofo-Mensah said although free agents bring an established presence into the locker room, it all depends on the fit into the team's culture and competitive timeline.
"I think ultimately you're considering known vs. unknown," Adofo-Mensah said. "Free agency is more known because the players have played in the league for at least four years or whatever it is and you know what they are. Draft picks, there are a lot of variants, and they could be better than a free agent or they could be worse, and how does that fit into your time horizon.
"There isn't a set way to value them, and you kind of look at everything probabilistically, honestly, and then see how that fits within your time horizon with different needs and in different positions," Adofo-Mensah added. "Not just what do I need today, you have to look ahead and say 'What am I going to need in 2024 and in 2025?' Ultimately, it's just this beautiful puzzle that we all try to solve together. But there are no right, simple answers."