Let’s Not Miss the Point of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s “Competitive Rebuild”

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

Shortly after becoming an NFL general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah picked up a side hustle: being a logic instructor.

During initial press conferences, the rookie GM sought to undercut false dichotomies, saying that the “binary” way of thinking about roster construction – either fully rebuild or fully go for it – don’t do a sufficient job of explaining the options that are actually on the table.

“They ask, ‘Are you either all-in or are you tearing it down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way,” Adofo-Mensah explained. “The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds, we’re trying to live in today and tomorrow — or the competitive rebuild.”

The 2023 NFL Draft Order Is Set
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

In other words, the GM was looking to undermine an either/or style of thinking. Or, put differently, he was educating us about the dangers of false dichotomies, reducing complex situations down to just two possible paths.

At times, there was criticism directed at him for appearing too similar to Rick Spielman. At this point, though, we can say that things are (at times slowly) beginning to look quite different. Gone are longtime stalwarts like Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen. Dalvin Tomlinson is now with the Browns and Patrick Peterson is with the Steelers.

Now, some of the recent conversation (at least online) centers on whether the team is giving away the 2023 season so they can gear up for 2024. Clearly, Minnesota isn’t giving up on the upcoming year. They’re coming off a 13-4 season when they won the division. Their QB1 remains and they’ve made some expensive additions in free agency, Byron Murphy and Marcus Davenport foremost among them. Retaining Harrison Smith is yet another indication that winning in 2023 is a priority.

Oct 20, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

However, it’s also true that 2024 is looking wide open. It’s during the next offseason, it would seem, that this roster will fully flip over into the one that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell want. Again, though, let’s avoid the logical fallacy: prioritizing 2024 does not mean the team is giving up on 2023. The whole point of a competitive rebuild is to compete while rebuilding.

Last offseason, the Vikings’ leadership signalled that they were giving themselves a 2-year window before potentially making some major changes. They did so be tacking on another year to Kirk Cousins’ deal. Partnering that move with the decision to retain players like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Patrick Peterson signalled that the new leadership group was looking to build on the foundation laid by the previous regime.

As we’ve seen, though, the contracts are such that the leadership can begin heading in a new direction. Last March, I even wrote about the situation, noting that the 2024 budget offered a ton of flexibility: “Nevertheless, the broader points remains: the Minnesota Vikings have a startlingly low amount of guarantees on their 2024 budget. The team thus has an incredible amount of flexibility coming down the pipe.”

In many ways, we’re merely experiencing the continuation of the plan. What we’re seeing is a GM taking the next step in that plan, making painful decisions in order to contend both now and in the future.

Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap helped with this piece.