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5 Takeaways: Adofo-Mensah on Cousins' Extension, Hunter's Roster Bonus & Maneuvering the Cap

EAGAN, Minn. — Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is through his first week as the Vikings general manager.

Minnesota has made a handful of moves thus far, but none were more noteworthy than the initial one, a one-year extension for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The move ties Cousins, who was set to enter the final year of his contract in 2022, to the Vikings for the 2023 season, too.

Adofo-Mensah met with Twin Cities media members Wednesday morning at TCO Performance Center and spoke at length about numerous topics related to the Vikings.

The Cousins extension, Adofo-Mensah said, was important to accomplish first because of the cap space it freed up, and the roster flexibility it offered.

"I think that was partly why we tried to work on a partnership in the deal we did," Adofo-Mensah said. "That roster stability from that position allows us to really look open-minded and do things in our terms with the rest of the roster.

"So, I think that's kind of how we approached it," Adofo-Mensah added.

Cousins will now get the chance to work with new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, a former NFL quarterback who was hired in February. The two were together in Washington in 2017, when O'Connell was Washington's quarterbacks coach.

Cousins threw for 4,091 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his lone season with O'Connell.

In addition to extending Cousins, Adofo-Mensah said Minnesota reworked Adam Thielen's contract to help sign defensive players such as Za'Darius Smith, Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks.

Here are four more takeaways from Adofo-Mensah's free agency press conference:

1. Hope for long-term deal with Hunter

If Cousins was the most newsworthy name on offense this offseason, that title on defense went to Danielle Hunter.

The edge rusher, who will likely transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

Adofo-Mensah said Sunday's deadline that an $18 million roster bonus was due to Hunter sparked plenty of great conversion between Minnesota's front office, the player and his representation.

"We feel great where we are with Danielle," Adofo-Mensah said. "Obviously that roster bonus was a call to come to the table and get in conversation, dialogue, and we had great conversation with Danielle, his representation, all the members of this organization.

"I can say we're all in a great place. [Hunter] called me from vacation the other day, and the second you get off the phone with a player like that you understand why he's a great player," Adofo-Mensah added. "You can hear the urgency, the motivation in his voice to kind of resume where he is as one of the elite players in this league, and we're excited to have him back and ready to get in the fold, and he's got a new partner on the way (Smith), which we texted about and we're happy to do that here."

Hunter has played in just seven games over the past two seasons due to a neck injury (2020) and a torn pec (2021).

Despite that injury history, however, Adofo-Mensah said he hopes to keep the 27-year-old around for the long haul.

"He's a really great player, so you don't just move on from great players very easily," Adofo-Mensah said. "He's someone that's been in this league for a while, produced at a really high level. Great person. It's awesome to be in this league and the relationships you start building.

"He's in Europe and we're talking about different travel and things we've done. He's somebody we're excited to have back in the fold, and every option is on the table," Adofo-Mensah added. "He's a great player, so he's somebody that you always want to consider bringing back under contract."

Hunter has 60.5 career sacks in 85 career games (56 starts).

2. Excitement for Smith, an update on Barr

Speaking of pass rushers, the Vikings added a big one Tuesday in Smith, a two-time Pro Bowler with Green Bay.

The 29-year-old missed nearly all of the 2021 season, however, with a back injury that limited him to just 37 total snaps (including the postseason).

Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday that he has no qualms about Smith's health going forward.

"He rehabbed his back, came back and played in the playoff game. I don't know if people remember that," Adofo-Mensah said. "Fully passed our physical. Everything looks great. After that bear hug [from Smith Tuesday], I can't see him being any stronger. No, we're not worried about his health. We're excited to have him."

Smith wore No. 55 with the Packers, digits that have been occupied by Anthony Barr in Purple since 2014.

Naturally, Barr, who became a free agent last week, was another topic during Adofo-Mensah's session on Wednesday.

"I had a conversation with him the other day. That's going to be a tougher situation to navigate. Never say never," Adofo-Mensah said. "Obviously, there are things salary cap related with acceleration and things like that that made that kind of a challenging deal.

"He's somebody, you walk by in this building and see the Man of the Year [display] every day when you used to walk in, so those decisions are tough," Adofo-Mensah added. "There is an emotional side of things. There is a relationship element to this business. Those decisions can be tough, but ultimately, sometimes they just have to be made."

3. Navigating the cap

The Vikings entered the offseason in a precarious financial situation, as Minnesota was roughly $15 million over the set 2022 salary cap of $208.8 million.

Adofo-Mensah spoke Wednesday about the process of navigating the financial aspect of his job, noting that he tries to keep one eye on the 2022 edition of the Vikings … while also trying to plan multiple years down the road.

"Everybody has the challenges in the NFL. I don't want to sit here and say that we had a harder problem," Adofo-Mensah said. "We also inherited a lot of good players; good, young players on this team.

"So, everybody has a challenge, everybody has that puzzle to solve as I always talk about. You're always trying to live in both worlds and see how things today may affect things tomorrow," Adofo-Mensah added. "The salary cap is obviously a part of that. As always, we'll be detailed, thorough and intentional about what we do and hope we can end up in the right place."

View photos of Vikings OLB Za'Darius Smith touring TCO Performance Center and getting introduced to the team for the first time.

4. Constant communication with the Wilfs

Vikings Ownership's decision on Jan. 10 to make changes at the GM and head coach positions marked a substantial pivot, but the Wilf family has made it clear that it does not envision needing a full rebuild.

"We have high expectations for this football team," Wilf said. "We believe we can be super competitive right here in 2022."

Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday that passion has continued to shine through in recent weeks, noting he has been in constant communication with Mark (Owner/President), Zygi (Owner/Chairman) and Lenny (Owner/Vice Chairman).

Adofo-Mensah characterized the dialogue as "awesome, ongoing."

He expanded on their conversations:

"Mark and Zygi, they're passionate, so I'll get a call from Mark, I'll get a call from Zygi, get an email from Lenny," Adofo-Mensah said. "It's awesome. I love those guys. They're so passionate about this sport and the Vikings. They're curious. This is their baby. They have questions, they want information, so I provide them with updates whenever I can.

"As always, they just want to make sure that people are being intentional about what they're doing, thoughtful," Adofo-Mensah continued. "So, I try and give them updates, 'This is how we're seeing it. These are the options we have at our disposal, and this is what we can do and this is what we can't do.'

"Ultimately you talk about somebody like Za'Darius, that's something that you have to call [about]," Adofo-Mensah added. "Everybody's got a boss, you know, you have to call and make that decision, and they provide us with resources that are so great here. You guys have known this longer than me but they're incredible here, so that dialogue has been great this offseason."