Former general manager Rick Spielman agreed to many contracts with players during his tenure with the Vikings. Between 2006 and 2011, Spielman was vice president of player personnel before he was officially named general manager.
He was involved in drafting Adrian Peterson in 2007, and 13 years later, he selected another offensive star, Justin Jefferson. He also selected multiple defensive stars, like Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, and Everson Griffen.
His best draft, however, came in 2015 when he drafted cornerback Trae Waynes in the first round. While he was solid, Spielman found multiple gems later. Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs were three players of one of the elite draft classes in recent history. The draft helped to lay the groundwork to win the division in 2015 and 2017.
Brad Spielberger from PFF named the best contract of each NFL team. The choice for the Vikings is one of the 2015 draft picks.
The second-rounder, Kendricks, was a teammate of 2014 first-rounder Anthony Barr at UCLA. Spielman reunited the duo and built one of the elite linebacker tandems in the NFL for years. In 2018, Kendricks signed an extension worth $50 million for five years. It turned out that the extension is very team-friendly.
“The top of the linebacker market is now double the average annual value of Kendricks’ five-year extension signed in 2018, and even though he’s coming off his lowest-graded season since his rookie campaign, Kendricks remains one of the better off-ball linebackers in coverage across the league. Over the past three seasons, his 91.2 coverage grade ranks second at the position — trailing only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lavonte David. Not to mention, Kendricks’ 18 forced incompletions since 2019 form the top mark at the position.”
Vikings fans are well aware of Kendricks’ coverage skills. In recent years, his coverage was better than the coverage of some of the Vikings’ cornerbacks. The Colts pay top dollars at the middle linebacker market to Darius Leonard. He signed a 5-year $98.5 million deal last offseason. 49ers defender Fred Warner is getting paid over $19 million annually. Compared to Kendricks´ cheap $10 million, that’s a lot. The contract allowed the Vikings and Spielman to spend money in different areas. Now his successor, Adofo-Mensah, has the luxury of working with that deal.
Adofo-Mensah Knows What He’s Doing
Spielberger also named a contender for Kendricks. First-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is apparently good at his job. He signed Za’Darius Smith to a good contract for the Vikings.
“Edge defender Za’Darius Smith was in consideration here, as well. His three-year, $42 million pact is potentially just a one-year, $9.5 million deal — with $3 million of his 2022 compensation tied to per-game roster bonuses, as well. Even after missing almost the entire 2021 season, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Smith racked up 144 quarterback pressures and 26 sacks over the 2019-20 campaigns with the rival Green Bay Packers.”
Adofo-Mensah added some layers of protection when he signed the defender. Smith played just a few snaps in one game. Otherwise, he missed the full 2021 season.
One layer is the per-game roster bonus. If he isn’t healthy, he won’t get paid his bonus. Also, the Vikings could cut him next offseason without much dead cap hit. Obviously, if he gets back to his 2019 and 2020 self, cutting him would be foolish, but it’s good to have the insurance.
Excellent Cap Manager
Rob Brzezinski is currently vice president of football operations. He is the wizard behind the cap magic. The new regime brought in a lot of new people but kept Brzezinski. He’s been a valuable part of the front office since 1999, and he should get credit for the structure of the contracts.
Next offseason, he has to find a way to keep Irv Smith. Garrett Bradbury will also be a free agent. His continued employment will depend on his performance in 2022. In addition, multiple players signed one-year contracts with the Vikings in free agency, like the cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan.
Adofo-Mensah and Brzezinski have to develop some new tricks in the next offseason. They have done a great job constructing a competitive roster this offseason after starting into the league year with some cap problems.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt