Vikings’ Approach to Rebuilding the Defense Changed in a Distinct Manner

Oct 29, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) takes on the field prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Neither Marcus Davenport nor Dean Lowry had earth-shattering numbers in 2022. The statistical downturn, though, didn’t dissuade Kwesi Adofo-Mensah from onboarding the defensive lineman and pass rusher. The Vikings’ approach was to buy low.

The former Saint got brought aboard for a single season and $13 million (alongside some void year tomfoolery to lower the cap charge in 2023). Meanwhile, Lowry landed a contract spanning a couple seasons and offering a total compensation sitting at $8.5 million.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward a season and neither is still in Minnesota; Davenport signed elsewhere and Lowry has been cut. Minnesota is thus left with $9.2 million in dead money from their deals. Buying low in 2023 resulted in a couple injury-filled seasons and a lower budget in 2024.

Minnesota is moving ahead with new players for their front seven, an area of the defense that’s undergoing an overhaul. The team has agreed to deals with EDGE Jonathan Greenard, EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel, LB Blake Cashman, and DT Jerry Tillery. Unlike their 2023 predecessors, all of these players are coming off career years.

The Vikings’ Approach to Signing Defenders has Changed

There’s no need to explain economic concepts to Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Before becoming an NFL GM, Adofo-Mensah put food on his table by buying and selling commodities.

Vikings Predictions and Things with Skol Doc




Vikings Predictions and Things with Skol Doc

Just listening to his press conferences will remind us of his unusual path toward the NFL. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Adofo-Mensah took on a question about trading Justin Jefferson. Predictably, the GM shot down the trade idea.

NFL: Combine
Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks to the media at the 2024 NFL Combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

What was notable was simply that he relied on an economic metaphor to explain his rationale, referring to Jefferson as a “blue” player and person. In other words, Jefferson is akin to a blue-chip stock: something that’s super valuable and cherished within one’s investment portfolio.

So, Adofo-Mensah certainly understands how things are proceeding with the contracts he’s offering to players. Instead of leaning on players for a rebound year in Minnesota, Adofo-Mensah is looking to get players to town who can both maintain and improve upon recent excellence.

Dec 24, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) walks off the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Think of the team’s most important signing: Jonathan Greenard.

Last season, DeMeco Ryans pushed the talented pass rusher to new heights. The 2021 season was promising for Greenard, picking up 33 tackles and 8 sacks before missing time in 2022 and seeing his numbers shrink. His resume, though, is beefed up by some tremendous production in 2023.

In that season, Greenard snagged 52 tackles to go alongside 12.5 sacks, easily career-high numbers in the key statistical categories. Minnesota is thus paying for a player who has been at his best very recently, making the deal more expensive now than it would have been had it arrived after the 2022 season.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Now, that’s not to say that the GM has pursued a uniform approach across all transactions. Corner Shaquill Griffin got added earlier in the week.

The veteran defensive back didn’t have a perfect 2023 season. Initially, he was playing with the Texans but was then released. Carolina swooped in and Griffin finished off the season playing for the league-worst Panthers. In all likelihood, the single season and $6 million in compensation is reflective of the up-and-down season that Griffin is coming off of.

Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Stephen Sullivan (84) catches the ball as Houston Texans cornerback Shaquill Griffin (0) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In theory, buying low is the preferred approach for someone like Adofo-Mensah, a GM who can often be found espousing the merits of finding value underneath every decision. Bringing things down a bit further, though, would involve us seeing something even more basic: just signing good football players is the broader goal.

The quarterback position isn’t inspiring too much confidence in The North Star State. As a result, there will be more of an onus on the defense to push the Vikings toward wins in 2024. We’ll see if the adjusted approach from Kwesi Adofo-Mensah helps achieve that goal.

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