Zulgad’s four-and-out: Reading between the lines on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s comments

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah got ahead of the game at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday by being one of the first executives to address the media.

Like many of the general managers and coaches who will speak this week in Indianapolis — Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell is scheduled to be available on Wednesday afternoon — Adofo-Mensah was careful with how much information he shared.

Here are a few of Adofo-Mensah’s responses with an attempt to read between the lines of what he was thinking.

Kirk Cousins' future in Minnesota

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The topic: How Adofo-Mensah evaluates quarterbacks from a numbers standpoint.

The answer: “Let’s go all the way numbers, let’s go full numbers. So, we talk about necessary and sufficient conditions in math. So necessary condition is having a starter-level quarterback, a quarterback of above a certain threshold. Now that doesn’t mean for sure you’re going to win, that’s not the only thing you need, but that is one of the things you need. So having a good level quarterback is a necessary condition. Kirk (Cousins) meets that threshold, so we know that. OK, well now how do you build the rest of the team around him to make sure that you can win in that way? Different quarterbacks require different things around them, but we know that for sure, he meets that threshold. How long does he meet that threshold? Those are things we’ve got to answer. Is there a chance to add somebody maybe with different skill sets? Those are all questions we’ve got to answer, so there’s not one right way, but I do know one thing. I know he is good enough, he meets that first threshold and that’s a question that a lot of people can’t answer with a yes, so we’ve got to make sure we treat that in the proper importance that it is.”

What it means: This was a very interesting and insightful answer. Cousins is entering the final season of his contract with the Vikings and will turn 35 in August. That’s why it’s important to have an idea of how long Cousins will continue to meet the threshold that Adofo-Mensah is talking about.

The Vikings are likely still deciding how much of a future Cousins has with the team and when they are going to make a move to replace him. The expectation is that will be with a younger and much cheaper quarterback. It’s important to note that Adofo-Mensah also said that Cousins currently “meets” the expected threshold and doesn’t exceed it. While Cousins almost certainly will be the Vikings starter in 2023, this quote leaves the door open to a change at quarterback coming sooner than later.

Justin Jefferson's contract extension

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson makes a one-handed catch against Bills Cam Lewis to keep a late drive alive.

The topic: The priority level for Justin Jefferson’s contract extension.

The answer:  “I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without this guy on our team, so it’s a priority. We have to make sure we do it in an order that we can do it in given all the other decisions we have to make. It’s not just having an elite player because I think people – maybe they appreciate the talent, maybe they don’t. (Jefferson as a) human is even better. Seeing it up close every day and he just wants to win. When I met him, the first time I met him actually, we walk in the building and I made a joke about something else that was happening at the wide receiver position at the time and about their contracts and just laughed and said ‘We won’t have any issues.’ He said ‘I just want to put wins on the board.’ Didn’t smile and wasn’t really like ‘haha’. The way he said it, that’s the guy you see on Sunday’s. Won’t turn down double teams, whole defense trying to stop him and he’s trying to put the Minnesota Vikings
on his back and wants to win a championship. When you have guys like that in your building, try everything you can to not let them out.”

What it means: Jefferson is eligible for a contract extension this offseason — he has two years left on his rookie deal — and it’s going to happen.

Adofo-Mensah is being honest when he said there are other more immediate issues that must be addressed. This includes free agency and roster moves to clear salary-cap space. Jefferson will turn 24 in June and already is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Jefferson almost certainly is going to want to become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver — the Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill is currently No. 1 with an average of $30 million per season — so it would be silly to think these negotiations will be easy. But Adofo-Mensah knows how important Jefferson is to the offense. Look for an announcement as training camp nears, or right after it opens.

How Brian Flores will help shape the defense

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The topic: How it helps to add Brian Flores as the defensive coordinator.

The answer: “I can’t say enough great things about that addition. It’s not just the football mind, which is special, as I talked about when we got our list together, I’m always going to be a numbers guy, so I’m always going to go look at the results of his defenses and they played a lot of good, efficient football with a lot of young players and that’s something that really drew us to him. And then you talk about the leader, how passionate he is. He fits so well in our culture where our culture is positivity, it’s passionate, and he fits really well into that. We need the leader, we need the football mind, we need the developer and we also need the personnel guy. He has a really extensive personnel background, so it’s not just about the players we draft this year or in free agency, it’s about reshaping our vision for the roster going forward, not just to compete in today’s NFL, but where it could go. He’s the type of thinker that I need, combined with Kevin, that’ll help us do that.”

What it means: Flores, who was the Dolphins’ head coach from 2019 to 2021, is going to be counted upon to have a major role in how the Vikings’ approach free agency and the draft on the defensive side of the ball. Ed Donatell, who was fired after one season as defensive coordinator, definitely sold a vision of what he would bring but he then failed to deliver. Flores is being counted on to clean up the mess.

Adofo-Mensah’s background isn’t in scouting so he has to trust his football people. While O’Connell has the offensive side of things handled, the drafting on the defensive side of the ball didn’t get off to a great start. Flores joined the Patriots as a scouting assistant in 2003 and became a pro scout in 2006 before joining the coaching staff. This background, along with a knowledge of exactly what he wants in a player, should be of great assistance to Adofo-Mensah.

Veteran linebackers unlikely to return

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The topic: The Vikings’ plan to look at linebackers at the combine.

The answer: “It’s a position just like every other position we look at. We have a lot of confidence in Brian Asamoah, who is also in that room. Troy Dye is a very good player. William Kwenkeu showed some really good things on special teams, so we’re going to take a look at that like we do with every position, but we have decisions to make just like everybody else does there.”

What it means: Adofo-Mensah said plenty by not mentioning veterans Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. The two are under contract for next season, but it won’t be surprising if both are let go before the new league year opens on March 15.

It’s no secret the Vikings want to get faster and younger on this side of the ball after being one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2022. Kendricks and Hicks both will be 31 next season. Asamoah, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, appears to be a lock to start in 2023. But the Vikings will be in the market to add at this position as they begin to turn a page on what was once one of the NFL’s top defenses.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire