In Recent Days, The Vikings GM Has Been Undoing Past Misses & Mistakes

Vikings Had the Worst Draft
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Since taking over as the Vikings GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hasn’t been afraid of pulling off controversial moves.

He has orchestrated a whopping 16 trades, sometimes to the chagrin of Vikings fans and analysts. He has picked players too high in the draft, at least according to many draft nerds. He has defied expectations by inking overlooked free agents to major deals — hello, Josh Oliver — an indication that he’s very comfortable in his own skin. Yes, the GM doesn’t need internet GMs to approve of his decision making; he’s quite content to follow through on his personal convictions, thank you very much.

Vikings Get a Decent Grade
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

What’s been notable over the past week, though, is that the Vikings GM has been undoing some of the initial moves he has made since taking over as the team’s general manager.

The end of the NFL preseason inevitably leads to a flurry of activity. The Vikings participated in the chaos, shuffling around the roster to get it to 53 men (54 if we count Junior Aho). Within those moves to get to the magic number, Adofo-Mensah has moved on from several players he either drafted or traded for in 2022-23. How do we understand these moves?

A Busy Week for the Vikings GM

Moving on from Vederian Lowe caught most onlookers by surprise.

A 6th-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Lowe positioned himself to take over as the team’s OT3/4 with a reasonably strong preseason. True, he wasn’t the second coming of Darrisaw, but a solid developmental player capable of filling in as valuable depth for (potentially) several years. Instead of pursuing the more obvious path, Kwesi opted to cancel out the cost of acquisition — a 6th — by trading for precisely that with the Patriots.

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (79) blocks Seattle Seahawks linebacker Tyreke Smith (92) during the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, a similar opportunity wasn’t available for Ross Blacklock. The defensive tackle went in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, an indication of his upside. Adofo-Mensah gave him a second chance in the NFL, prying him away from the Texans for a 6th-round selection on August 30th, 2022. Making the deal easier to digest was that the defender arrived in Minnesota with a 7th-round pick in his back pocket. So, all the Vikings GM had to do was lessen his draft pick value by dropping from RD6 to RD7, not a bad proposition given the upside present in Blacklock.

The gamble — a worthwhile one — didn’t pay off. The team has cut the still-young defensive tackle, meaning they received a single season of below average play in exchange for the draft positioning.

Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo (56) blocks Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Ross Blacklock (96) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

A day after appearing to make the final roster, Jalen Reagor faced a similar fate to Blacklock. Reagor has been cut a year after being acquired for a 5th and 7th. Combining the draft capital the Eagles used on him and the picks sent out by the Vikings means Reagor has prompted GMs to give up a 1st, 5th, and 7th for his services. In the end, he has been a below average offensive player and special teams contributor across his trio of seasons.

Earlier in the week, Adofo-Mensah’s press conference addressed the misses on the DT and WR. The former stock trader preferred to focus less on individual misses and more on his broader “portfolio” of decisions. In other words, the GM thinks that continuing to prioritize young, high-upside players is going to pay off in the long run.

Just as an investor doesn’t always pick a perfect stock, so too does the GM sometimes fail to acquire the perfect player. The important thing is to stay true to one’s vision and keep improving.

Similar outcomes arrived for DE Esezi Otomewo and RB DeWayne McBride. Neither cut qualifies as a major surprise — I had Otomewo making it in my projection with McBride being cut — but it’s notable that the recent picks aren’t on the final roster. The defensive lineman, in particular, is notable since the James Lynch injury seemed to open an opportunity for a defender with the ability to slide up and down the defensive line.

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Esezi Otomewo (90) and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) and linebacker Luiji Vilain (43) prepare to tackle Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Does Kwesi deserve criticism? If so, how much?

The basic reality is that there’s no such thing as a GM who perfectly predicts how every draft selection and trade will work out. In less than a couple years on the job, Adofo-Mensah has made some great decisions and not-as-great decisions. Those of us who are more inclined to beat a dead horse will still bemoan that drop from 12-to-32 in the trade with the Lions, and the Andrew Booth Jr. trade up has the potential to be Adofo-Mensah’s main gaffe so far.

What’s far more encouraging is the T.J. Hockenson acquisition, the deal bringing Nick Mullens to town, the Byron Murphy signing, and (from out current vantage point, at least) the gutsy call on picking Jordan Addison. My defensive bias would have certainly prompted me to opt for one of the high-end corners in that draft slot, but Kwesi made the unpopular decision by selecting a receiver. So far, the rookie WR has been super impressive on the field.

The young GM isn’t perfect but he has the team heading in a promising direction. Many of his recent decisions point toward miscalculating on trades and misevaluating on his picks, but those are the strikeouts that accompany getting into the batter’s box.

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