Minnesota Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks Jefferson, Cousins, Hunter negotiations at combine

Vikings 2024 offseason outlook: Biggest questions and storylines

INDIANAPOLIS — This offseason for the Minnesota Vikings hinges on three players: quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and pass rusher Danielle Hunter. It's no surprise, then, that those were the three players general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spoke most about at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Michael Conroy / AP

Cousins and Hunter are set to be free agents on March 13, while Jefferson is eligible for an extension but still under contract for another year.

Justin Jefferson

Adofo-Mensah, now starting his third offseason as the Vikings' GM, spoke most confidently about Jefferson, the 24-year-old superstar around whom Minnesota's offense revolves.

"We've said it and we'll continue to say it, we think he's the best wide receiver in the league and should be compensated as such," he said. "We think he's one of the best non-quarterbacks in the league, think he should be compensated as such."

Adofo-Mensah said the two sides got "unbelievably close" to striking a deal last offseason, and that talks are ongoing.

"I will tell you that we're excited to have him and continue those conversations because he's somebody we want around for a long time," he said.

The GM said trading Jefferson "is not something that's once crossed my mind."

"You got a blue chip player, a blue person, you try to keep as many of those as you can," he said.

Adofo-Mensah later added "a lot of the stuff I hear is completely false, but I can't get up here and tell you what's not true or not false because that's not how I promised to do this job."

Jefferson's new deal is expected to pay him north of $30 million per year.

Kirk Cousins

The Vikings are rumored heavily to be exploring quarterback options in the upcoming draft, but that doesn't mean Cousins is guaranteed to go elsewhere. Both he and the team have expressed interest in a new deal. Adofo-Mensah said talks with the 35-year-old quarterback's camp are in a "great place."

"Had a great conversation with him a few days ago," he said. "At the end of the day it's we have our interests, he has his and we get to the table and see if we can figure out a creative solution and how to meet in the middle ... What we do know is we have a really great quarterback, a great leader and somebody that we think we can win the ultimate prize with and so that's ultimately what I focus on and that's where we're at right now."

The Vikings are picking 11th overall in the draft, too low to snag one of the top QBs, but within range where a trade up would be reasonable — as would a trade down for one of the second-tier passers. Adofo-Mensah said when scouting QBs, he looks for "the qualities that make all great quarterbacks."

"I think you have to be two players. You have to be able to operate on schedule. When [head coach] Kevin [O'Connell] calls a great play, gets the right look versus the defense, we gotta operate at a high level, make the right decision, make an accurate throw," he said. "And then there's that second play, when sometimes — and I don't think its very often, I think Kevin's one of the best there is — but when the play doesn't work, exactly go as planned, maybe a teammate struggles, and how do you overcome context? That's something we're gonna look for. And then obviously from a leadership standpoint, that position sets the tone."

Cousins could earn top QB money in his next deal, which in the current market approaches or exceeds $50 million in average annual value.

Danielle Hunter

The Vikings desperately need Hunter back, both because of his stellar caliber of play last season and their lack of pass-rushing options elsewhere on the roster. But the 29-year-old has been seeking a better contract for several years now, is coming off his best season as a pro and has seemingly put his injury concerns behind him. He won't come cheap to whichever team signs him.

"He had a great season, and I don't know that anybody who's in Minnesota is surprised by that. Danielle walks out of bed and is gonna sack the quarterback, pressure, impact the game. That's who he is," Adofo-Mensah said. "We'll have fruitful dialogues like we always do. It's not just about this season, it's the next season, all these things. Always gotta remember, the players have their needs from their standpoint. And I always respect that. So we'll go to the table and see if we can figure out, talk about a way to kind of find a deal to meet in the middle."

Edge rusher deals are about in line with the wide receiver market right now, so Hunter is likely to command somewhere between $25 million and $30 million a year in his next contract.

NFL free agency officially begins March 13, though a legal negotiating window opens two days before that. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit.

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