The Anatomy of a Kwesi Contract

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Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Since taking over as GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has mostly been subdued in free agency. He hasn’t been altogether absent in the frenzy but he’s been far from the most active, instead opting for sensible deals that help round out the roster while giving the team options as the years unfold.

While working on different topics for Section 21, I began wondering about how the GM goes about putting together his deals. The Kwesi contract is often one that combines a very palatable initial cap hit with increasingly large numbers in subsequent seasons.

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Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

That’s not an altogether odd approach. What’s more notable, perhaps, is his willingness to be aggressive with void years and being able to circle back to players about adjusting their deals later on.

The Kwesi Contract

For the purposes of this article, we’ll consider the deals for four players: DT Harrison Phillips, LB Jordan Hicks, TE Josh Oliver, and CB Byron Murphy. In each instance, Kwesi brought a high-impact veteran aboard for an immediately digestible cap charge while giving the team ongoing leverage as the deal proceeds.

PlayerYear 1 Cap HitYear 2 Cap HitYear 3 Cap HitYear 4 Cap Hit
Hicks, Jordan$3,500,000$6,500,000N/AN/A
Phillips, Harrison$3,833,333$6,833,333$8,833,334N/A
Oliver, Josh$2,554,000$6,174,000$9,424,000$2,848,000
Murphy, Byron$2,814,708$10,250,000$4,200,000N/A

The numbers in red represent the baked-in dead money hits that will arrive due to void years. Moreover, it’s worth noting that Hicks’ Year 2 cap hit has changed. During the offseason, the Vikings were able to shave off $1.5 million from his cap charge for the upcoming season.

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The key detail in the Hicks deal is that Minnesota could have moved on for large savings (as many people were predicting going into the offseason). Only $1.5 million of the overall $6.5 million would have stuck around on the cap. In effect, the team had quite a bit of leverage when it was time to negotiate with the linebacker about reducing his deal.

Overall, that’s a fairly consistent feature of the deals. Murphy, for instance, could be cut next season for a savings of $4.65 million. Leaving behind $5.6 million is far from ideal, but it’s also not an amount that’s totally indigestible. The Vikings, in short, have ongoing options as time proceeds.

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Nov 6, 2022; Seattle Seahawks Running wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) runs around Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy (07) in the first half in Glendale, Arizona, USA; at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly enough, the deal with Murphy has built-in void years, potentially allowing for a signing bonus conversion that lets the team save money (at least in the immediate) without moving on from the player.

Phillips is further along in his deal and the contract is untouched. When his cap hit will be the largest – in 2024 when the number surpasses $8.8 million – is also the time when the team could carve out the most cap space for themselves. A simple cut next offseason would put another $6.5 million in Minnesota’s pocket while leaving behind $2.3+ million in dead money.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) reacts to a stop during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming Phillips is healthy and playing well, will the Vikings circle back to the deal to see about adjusting it somehow? There is some precedent there with Hicks.

Stepping Back to Assess

There are some trends. The deals have mostly been for 2 or 3 years. As the cap charges increase, so too do the potential savings for the team. Either Minnesota gets to digest the larger cap hit with a larger overall budget (since the salary cap keeps going up) or the team has some leverage to renegotiate while exploring the possibility of a cut.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

More recently, the deals have even featured some void years. The benefit of tacking on those years is to make the immediate cap charge more palatable but also to give the Vikings another tool down the line. With Murphy, for instance, the team could presumably clear some of the 2024 cap charge by leveraging those void years and then by agreeing to a new signing bonus.

The wild card is next offseason. The team is projected to have a hefty amount of cap space: a total that’s just under $53.5 million. Vikings fans are unaccustomed to seeing their team with such a rotund amount in the budget. The team will be entering a new phase in 2024, so we can likely assume that the contract philosophy will evolve.

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