Where Kwesi Deserves Credit

Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon chats with Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Lately, the fashionable choice has been to criticize Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

After all, the team is sitting at a thoroughly uninspiring 0-3, so Minnesota’s architect definitely deserves a portion of the blame. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, says some guy named Bill, and the GM’s head may be feeling a bit burdened right about now. Being in the top job has its challenges.

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

The young executive has made a pile of consequential decisions since taking over in January of 2022. Not all of them have worked out (as he’d be very willing to admit). One thinks of the trades involving Jalen Reagor & Ross Blacklock, the decision to sign Jesse Davis, and his initial draft class as just some of his main whiffs.

More recently, the GM has put together some smart decisions. And, to be sure, those moves deserve some airtime, as well.

Giving Kwesi Credit

Extending Josh Metellus for a couple seasons and just $8 million in total money looks like a bargain. The 25-year-old has long been a special teams ace but is now proving what’s long been evident: he’s more than capable of being a strong contributor on defense. Alongside Camryn Bynum, Metellus represents the present and the future at safety for the Minnesota Vikings.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Inking T.J. Hockenson to a sizable extension definitely raised some eyebrows. A brief look under the hood, though, suggests that the contract isn’t nearly as daunting as the headlines would make one believe.

By 2026, the Vikings can move on from their TE1 for major cap savings. A simple cut a few years from now would result in $12.4 million in added cap room and a $7.2 million dead money hit. Obviously, that’s far from an ideal outcome, but it illustrates something important about the deal: the GM left behind a lot of team leverage as the years proceed. A re-worked contract at some point won’t be at all surprising for Mr. Hockenson.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes (30) tackles Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, Adofo-Mensah’s initial draft class is looking horrendous. Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. were being tasked with breathing new life into an aging, slower secondary. Instead, neither can get off the bench. Making matters even worse is Brian Asamoah’s demotion to LB3, another sign that the general manager badly missed on revitalizing what’s now a struggling defense. Cutting Esezi Otomewo during the offseason means four of the five defenders from the 2022 group aren’t helping.

The silver lining rests with Akayleb Evans, who has been doing a nice job overall. And, of course, we think of Mekhi Blackmon more recently, who has similarly been showing promise and potential. Finally, we should note that the player who has overcome Asamoah is Ivan Pace Jr., the UDFA whom Adofo-Mensah aggressively pursued following the most recent draft.

Oh, and let’s not forget the very bold decision to select Jordan Addison. The safer play would have been for a defender and maybe that’s what will have been the best move, but the early returns are promising on the young receiver. Partnering Addison with Justin Jefferson looks to be perhaps the key part of Minnesota’s future plan.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Leaning so heavily on void years, squandering several picks in the 2022 Draft (alongside the still-baffling Lions swap), the misguided trades, and, most concerning, the inability to extend Justin Jefferson are the most damning sins of Kwesi’s time at the helm.

Keeping Metellus and Hockenson, moving the team toward a significantly healthier financial horizon, staying true to his core vision, and picking some very promising players (Evans, Addison, Blackmon) are all moves that deserve praise.

The 2023 season may be going nowhere, but the overall direction of the Vikings isn’t utterly bleak. Yes, there are some troubling trends that need correcting and some major questions to answer, but don’t get sucked too far into the purple doom & gloom. At worst, the GM’s performance has been a mixed bag.

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

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.