Kwesi Adofo-Mensah – Extra Cash in Hand – Has More Free Agents to Consider for Vikings

Draft Prospect
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Good news, Vikings fans: franchise legend Harrison Smith will be sticking around in 2023. I, for one, am thrilled by the news; the initial suggestion is that the team will shave $6.7 million from their salary cap. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah thus gets a more robust budget to work with moving forward.

Don’t forget that moves involving Za’Darius Smith, Brian O’Neill, and T.J. Hockenson can free up just under $29 million.

The Vikings Can Eliminate Their Salary Cap Debt with 1 Move
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) and Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) in action at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Add it all together and we find ourselves with a young executive staring down some important decisions. Minnesota, to be sure, is supremely interested in contending during 2023. Led by an elite receiver, the Vikings will once again be gunning for the NFC North but also so much more. A Super Bowl trophy – that ever-elusive goal – remains the main aspiration.

With that broader objective in mind, who can Minnesota seek to woo? Are there any eligible free agents who’d help push the Vikings over the top?

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah & The Remaining FAs

Defensively, some notable names remain, Bobby Wagner foremost among them. The long-time Seahawk and single-season Ram can still be a true difference maker at linebacker. In the end, he’ll be remembered as the best linebacker of his generation.

As a 32-year-old playing for an underperforming Rams team, Wagner piled up some truly impressive stats: 140 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 TFLs, 10 QB hits, 2 INTs, and 5 PDs. He only missed 2 tackles all season. He was named a second-team All Pro.

Oct 25, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) walks to the locker room following a 13-10 loss against the New Orleans Saints at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

More help at corner is also possible. One thinks of Rock Ya-Sin as a corner who offers some intrigue (though a deal with the Ravens could be materializing). A 2nd-round selection in 2019, Ya-Sin most recently played for the Raiders. He held receivers to 9.9 yards per completion and held QBs to a collective 82.6 passer rating. He’s still only 26.

As most will know by now, I’m a firm advocate for adding pass rushers like it’s going out of style. Veterans like Frank Clark, Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and/or Jadeveon Clowney could function as an upside EDGE3 in the Brian Flores defense. Generating pressure on a more consistent basis ought to be a top priority for the 2023 defense.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Oct 23, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) high fives linebacker Justin Houston (50) after making a sack against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

On offense, perhaps the main spot that has attracted attention has been the WR2 spot. I’ll reiterate my belief that K.J. Osborn can do a nice job, but the philosophy for offense isn’t altogether different from the one on defense. Just as there’s no such thing as too many players who can sack the QB, so too is there no such thing as too many players who can make plays (especially in the passing game).

Some of the top remaining options include D.J. Chark, Darius Slayton, and Mecole Hardman. All 3 offer youth and speed. Chark, for instance, is 6’4″ and ran a 4.34 forty; he averaged 16.7 yards per catch last season, an eye-popping number. Meanwhile, Slayton averaged 15.7 YPC and Hardman 11.9 YPC. The “slowest” of the trio is Slayton, who ran an elite 4.39.*

The broader point, folks, is that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can use his newfound 2023 cap space – again, a number that will likely rise – to keep tweaking things. The foundation is in place, so the moves at this stage are about accentuating strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

Expect some more moves in the coming days and weeks.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

*UPDATE: Darius Slayton is returning to the Giants.