The Vikings try to “live today and tomorrow” this offseason

When the Minnesota Vikings hired a new general manager and head coach, the natural expectation from the outside was that major changes would follow.

Instead, the Vikings have kept their best and costliest players largely intact from a team that has gone 15-18 over the past two years.

Owner and chairman Mark Wilf spoke out last month against restarting, and based on how general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has led the decision-making so far, the Vikings are clearly unwilling. to accept the regression this year simply for the long term. progress.

“We’re all aligned on our vision and how we see our team’s needs this year, next year and across our time horizon,” Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday. “I think when people look at teams, sometimes they do it in a very binary way, and they ask, ‘Are you all in or tear down and rebuild?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way. From our perspective, we’re trying to navigate both worlds. We’re trying to live today and tomorrow.

The term used by Adofo-Mensah was “competitive reconstruction”, although such labels do not apply to him. As worn as the concept of process has become in corporate culture and professional sports — Adofo-Mensah said he considers former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, the original champion of process, as a mentor — this is exactly what the Vikings launched under their new leadership. .

The question that cannot be answered until at least two seasons are complete under the new regime, however, is how this approach differs from the way former general manager Rick Spielman and coach- Chief Mike Zimmer remained in win-now mode after reaching the NFC Championship Game four years ago.

“It’s just about adding great players, great elements around the core that we have,” Adofo-Mensah said. “There are ways to do that in free agency or the draft or the commercial market or player development, and so we just pay attention to that, understanding the reality of where we are and what things give us chances of getting where we want to be.”

The strategy of recent offseasons left the Vikings with little flexibility under the salary cap, but rather than trade or get out of the situation, they carved out space for affordable additions with the art of restructuring.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, and inside linebacker Jordan Hicks were notable free agent signings. Quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​had his contract extended to flatten huge hits. Wide receiver Adam Thielen, safety Harrison Smith and defensive end Danielle Hunter all had their offers changed to give the team more immediate cap flexibility.

With all the movement of quarterbacks across the league over the past month, a cousin swap would have fit the trend perfectly. The Vikings don’t have an apprentice for him yet, however, and starting over in that position would almost surely have guaranteed a proper restart for 2022.

Building on the relationship new head coach Kevin O’Connell has already had with Cousins ​​since their year together in Washington and the offensive expertise of the new staff, the Vikings opted to sign him to a third contract in four years and trying to raise the ceiling for a tried and polished player who carries a decidedly average career record of 59-59-2 as a starter.

“We do things on our terms on the pitch, and I think that applies to team building as well. Getting him into the fold, getting him on board, I really think that was a win- winner,” Adofo-Mensah said, adding, “This roster stability from this position allows us to really have an open mind and do things on our terms with the rest of the roster.

Cornerback remains the most sought-after position, with just four currently on the roster and Cameron Dantzler the most experienced with his 17 career starts. Patrick Peterson is a free agent, but he has often expressed interest in returning.

“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 perspective,” Adofo-Mensah said. “These conversations are ongoing.”

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