EAGAN, Minn. — The league announced Monday that the 2022 salary cap will be $208.8 million, giving teams a number they must be at or under when the New League Year (and free agency) kicks off next week.
The start of the New League Year is scheduled for 3 p.m. (CT) on March 16, which means numerous decisions await new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
According to overthecap.com, the Vikings are roughly $15 million over the cap, so the new duo will have to get to that number soon.
That means Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell have been evaluating players who are under contract for 2022 and the nearly 20 players who are scheduled to become free agents.
So, how do they evaluate the roster when neither had a hand in drafting or signing a single player?
Vikings.com posed that question to both Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, with both giving straightforward answers.
"That's a great question. I try at every level to try and take emotion out of everything I do," Adofo-Mensah said. "And that's not because I'm an emotionless person or anything like that.
"Just from my former background in trading, you're going to lose a lot of money if you get emotional about decisions," Adofo-Mensah added. "You gotta take the long game, you gotta take the long path. That's everything I do in the process."
O'Connell added: "I think you just look at the tape."
Put another way, both men essentially said they have to look at the roster and make personnel decisions with a clear eye and a clean slate.
That approach will come in handy considering the names that the duo will have to evaluate.
While quarterback Kirk Cousins' future is a hot topic, he is still under contract for the 2022 season.
A good number of Minnesota's free agents – Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Vigil and others — reside on the defensive side of the ball. That's four players who started at least 11 games last season.
So, as free agency looms, the Vikings front office must evaluate who they hope to keep and can retain.
But Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell must also look at who will still be here, and the role they could play going forward.
The Vikings GM likened his new venture to when he arrived in San Francisco in 2013, the season after the 49ers nearly won Super Bowl XLVII. The team underwent multiple coaching changes (Jim Harbaugh left after 2014; Jim Tomsula followed in 2015; Chip Kelly was there in 2016; Kyle Shanahan was hired in 2017) before making it back to Super Bowl LIV.
"In terms of teams that you join, one of the pieces of advice Charlie Casserly gave to me, who was great to me in this process, he said, 'Kwesi, a lot of the best GM outcomes were that they knew that the team in place already had a lot of good players on them.' And what does that mean?" Adofo-Mensah said. "That means that somebody is willing to come in with a fresh eye and not just change for the sake of change.
"We really evaluate with an open mind and be like, 'Hey, there's some good players here, what can we do in small spaces to add and improve.' Like in San Francisco — DeForest Buckner was on our team in San Francisco by the time we got there. Arik Armstead was on our team. A lot of those good players were on our team," Adofo-Mensah added. "Credit to Kyle and [General Manager] John [Lynch] for recognizing that and putting all those other pieces around them. But a lot of it was recognizing what you have and seeing what you need to get to and figuring out that difference."
And from a coaching standpoint, O'Connell said he's looking for players who can make an impact in his first season in charge.
"In the end, through evaluating that from a big-picture standpoint, you can get a great feel for individual aspects of how guys affected games," O'Connell said. "That's really what you're looking for, is how many guys can you put on the field that you feel will affect the game in a positive way by doing their job."
With a little over a week to go, the next eight days will be busy for Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell as they prepare for their first go-around in free agency in their new respective roles.
Get a behind-the-scenes look of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
But the decisions they make in the coming days and weeks will also shape their early tenure in Minnesota and set the tone for what they want the Vikings roster to look like in 2022 and beyond.
"That'll just come from learning, that'll be on the job," Adofo-Mensah said at the combine. "What I do know is that if you have people in a room who disagree with what you think and you're still willing to do it, you probably have the wrong people in the room.
"And I think I have great people in the room, so I want to hear them out, and we're going to make decisions collaboratively and come to great conclusions together," Adofo-Mensah added.