The Minnesota Vikings held a press conference today, where Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spoke with reporters about the upcoming draft. Most notably, it gave the media the chance to ask about Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Cook, and Kirk Cousins’ future with the organization.
One big thing that stood out to me from this presser is the lack of clarity the Vikings provided. It felt like Kevin O'Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a concerted effort to keep their cards close to their chest. Part of it makes sense, as the Vikings don't want other teams knowing who they may draft. However, the silence surrounding the future of Za'Darius, Dalvin, and Kirk is deafening.
When the topic of Justin Jefferson’s extension came up during the NFL combine, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was not at all hesitant to say how much he wanted Jefferson to remain with the Vikings. Kwesi went on the record and said: “I don’t want to be the Vikings’ GM without that guy on our team.” Kwesi could've easily said something similar to quell offseason rumors regarding Cousins, Cook, and Smith if he wanted to, but instead he chose not to, which was intentional. The Vikings non-committal attitude in regards to Za’Darius, Dalvin, and Kirk, tells me that they are not in Minnesota’s long-term plans.
Today a reporter asked about Dalvin Cook’s future with the Vikings, and Kwesi’s response was drastically different. The reporter asked: “If you knew for sure [Cook] would be on the roster, would you have committed what you committed to Alexander Mattison?”
At this point of the press conference, Kwesi starts to hesitate. He smacks his lips, slightly shakes his head, and takes a second to articulate a response. “You know I think that’s...” He stops again. “Yeah I think in theory that they could co-exist. Different styles of backs, we talk about the systems we’re trying to play. They’re different styles of backs, they could fit complementary together.”
For whatever reason, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was not prepared to answer this question. Kwesi’s body language radiated this nervous energy, and for a brief moment he showed his hand. By starting his sentence with “I think in theory,” Kwesi sort of implies that this scenario where Cook and Mattison are both on the roster, won’t actually happen. His overall response would’ve been completely accurate, but the way he worded it along with his unusual hesitancy makes me think Dalvin Cook’s time with the Vikings might already be over.
When asked about the team’s communication with Za’Darius Smith after he requested for a trade, Kwesi said that the Vikings front office has had ongoing communication with Za’Darius and his representatives. Kwesi added that the team wants to be “solutions oriented” and that “sometimes those solutions come from different places.” That’s a pretty vague descriptor of the situation, and it feels like Kwesi throwing around buzzwords more than saying anything of substance.
Afterwards, Kwesi was asked if he feels it’s important to have a succession plan in place for when Kirk is eventually gone. He said: “Ideally, you probably would want to have a year to have a [rookie] in the building”. Immediately afterwards, he sort of walks it back by adding: “but I don’t know if that’s necessary. It just depends on the player.” It’s obvious that Kwesi prefers to draft a quarterback this year and have them sit a year behind Kirk Cousins. Of course, the Vikings can’t be too on the nose about it, otherwise quarterback needy teams picking below Minnesota will catch on and may try to move up above them in the draft.
One thing I noticed about Kwesi is that he has a terrible poker face. If he’s caught off guard by a question in a press conference, he’ll give you a glimpse of how he truly feels about something. He then will try and backtrack, and say something that muddles the truth to save face. Whereas Kevin O’Connell is much more like a political speaker who can speak for 5 minutes and say nothing at all.
Sometimes by saying nothing at all, you end up showing your hand. The Vikings non-committal approach towards Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Cook, and Kirk Cousins’ future with the team tells us that Kwesi and company are ready to mold the Vikings in their image and start a new era for the franchise.