Vikings GM says he wants Cousins back at QB as roster remains under construction

Published 6:16 am Thursday, January 11, 2024

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EAGAN —  The arrival of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as Minnesota Vikings general manager two years ago initiated a personnel strategy he branded a “competitive rebuild,” shaped by an organization disinterest in tanking and a dire need for a younger and more financially flexible roster.

This offseason will present a pivotal point in Adofo-Mensah’s plan. Will the Vikings seek to stay as competitive as possible, with a passing attack that’s been established as one of the NFL’s best? Are they better off rebuilding after finishing 7-10? Or can they continue with a both/and approach?

“We want to get to a place where there’s no rebuild, right? It’s just competitive, in a window, and I think we’re close to that,” Adofo-Mensah said Wednesday in his season-ending news conference with coach Kevin O’Connell. “It’s going to take a big offseason. That’s why we’re going to be here a lot. I think it’s important. I’m excited for the challenge.”

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The decisions the Vikings make at the quarterback position ought to signify which direction they’re headed from here. Kirk Cousins is due for a new contract, and Adofo-Mensah confirmed the Vikings will offer him one.

“It’s certainly my intention to have him back here,” Adofo-Mensah said.

Having already negotiated three new deals for Cousins with the Vikings in the last six years, agent Mike McCartney has a well-established relationship with the front office. Adofo-Mensah was involved in the last extension, which was struck about two months after he was hired.

Cousins strongly prefers to re-sign with the Vikings. He indicated this week he’s not out to force a bidding contest and break the bank, but paying him at a market rate for the next year or two likely would force the Vikings to part ways with multiple important players at a time when they’ve got weaknesses to address on both sides of the ball. Even setting aside the recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, he’ll turn 36 before the 2024 season begins.

“Obviously you also have to pay attention to the person and what he puts into his body and how regimented and detailed he is,” Adofo-Mensah said. “All those factors go into it, but at the end of the day you’re just taking risk. We try and measure it the best we can to protect ourselves and insure against it. On his side, he’s going to try to take less risk. That’s his job. They should do that. We’ll try and find a place in the middle.”

Whether or not a deal is done, a little more than a month later, the Vikings will take the 11th overall pick into a draft that’s deep in top-flight quarterback prospects. Even if Cousins is under contract, the Vikings will have to look hard at drafting his replacement. After all, the division rival Green Bay Packers created their charmed life at the position in part because of the foresight to do so with Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and with Jordan Love in 2020. Both Rodgers and Love sat for three seasons before becoming the starter.

“Ultimately it is the most important position in our sport, so you want to be thinking long term and short term, and ultimately the Vikings are going to pursue actions that help us in both windows,” Adofo-Mensah said. “That is open to any position in the draft, whether we picked 11th or 23rd.”

The easiest choice in Adofo-Mensah’s tenure will be to sign wide receiver Justin Jefferson to a contract extension. The two sides talked last summer but didn’t get a deal done. Now the pressure is on to get to the finish line so it doesn’t loom over training camp entering the final season of his rookie contract.

“We have a shared history now. We did a lot of the work last season, so we talked and said, ‘Let’s plan to talk again soon.’ I’m always optimistic about those things. Obviously, we have to address that and a bunch of other things, but I’m looking forward to those conversations,” Adofo-Mensah said.