The Anatomy of a Kwesi Contract (Version 2.0)

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
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The precise nature of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s contracts have been a source of intrigue for a little while. Indeed, the Kwesi contract has always been fascinating to dissect, but it looks more important than ever as the Vikings move into their “big offseason.”

There are some trends. The deals have been between 1-3 years (if I’m not mistaken, he has never offered a deal that goes beyond three years). Minnesota gets the most savings in the opening year but then things become more expensive. 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.

These details are overly general and abstract, though, so let’s dig a bit deeper.

The Anatomy of the Kwesi Contract

Recently, the relatively major deals have featured 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 Byron Murphy, for instance, the team could clear some of the 2024 cap charge by leveraging those void years and then by getting frisky with a signing bonus.

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (11) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Step back a bit, though.

Consider the deals for four players: DT Harrison Phillips, LB Jordan Hicks, TE Josh Oliver, and CB Byron Murphy. In each instance, Kwesi brought an 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$2,961,765$10,911,765$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 changed. During the last offseason, the Vikings were able to shave off $1.5 million from his cap charge since each side agreed to do so.

What’s notable is the incremental increases as time proceeds. Digesting the Year 1 cap hits for Oliver and Murphy was quite easy since the tight end and corner combined for a bit more than $5.5 million. What about Year 2? Well, the combined hit swells to roughly $17 million. Quite a difference.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver (84) runs for yards after the catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Now, there is a method to the madness.

As mentioned, the salary cap tends to go up, so that makes the large commitments easier to stomach. Plus, Kwesi has been hard at work layering in the players whom he is responsible for drafting (the Rick Spielman talent exodus is ongoing). Piling up rookie-contract players is a surefire way to balance the books since the initial four years come with baked-in cap savings since the deals are so modest (relatively speaking; most normal people would be thrilled to land a four-year contract that dishes out millions).

Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Plus, the Vikings GM likes to ensure he maintains several options. He doesn’t like being boxed in.

So, for instance, he could cut Murphy — something he won’t do — to save a bit beyond $5.3 million. Alternatively, he could pursue a restructure, leveraging the void years to toss nearly $6 million into the current budget. Most likely of all would be an extension, an option that could clear $6.38 million in 2024.

Of course, Kwesi could also just sit on his hands, opting for the status quo. Yes, the cap charge is nearing $11 million, but that’s not too bad for a strong CB2 who can move inside and out.

Minnesota’s money manager is going to be a busy man in the coming weeks and months. Collectively, we’re in the calm before the NFL’s offseason storm. March will get busy in a hurry and things won’t slow down until May.

The Vikings are expected to be active in free agency. Currently, they have roughly $25 million in cap space, but that’s a number that could easily double. Keep an eye on how Adofo-Mensah continues to replicate the trends he has established or deviate in order to onboard some of the league’s best players.

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.