The Minnesota Vikings have hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their general manager, according to a person with knowledge of the process, taking an innovative turn by bringing in an analytics expert from Cleveland’s front office who once worked on Wall Street.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the Vikings had not yet announced the decision.
Adofo-Mensah, the vice president of football operations for the Browns for the past two years, was one of two finalists the Vikings identified from an initial pool of eight candidates.
The other was Kansas City executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles, who was hired as general manager of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday before he made it to Minnesota for his scheduled visit. Adofo-Mensah was at Vikings headquarters on Tuesday for his second formal interview.
With Poles and Adofo-Mensah, who are both Black, filling vacancies this cycle there are now seven minority general managers in the NFL. The other five are Andrew Berry (Cleveland), Jerry Fontenot (Atlanta), Chris Grier (Miami), Brad Holmes (Detroit) and Martin Mayhew (Washington).
As part of the NFL’s reward system for teams developing minority coaches and front-office personnel, the Browns will receive compensatory third-round draft picks in each of the next two years for losing Adofo-Mensah. The league adopted that rule in 2020.
The 40-year-old Adofo-Mensah has an economics degrees from both Princeton, where he was a junior varsity basketball player, and Stanford. He is a native of New Jersey, just like Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.
Adofo-Mensah was a commodities trader and portfolio manager early in his career before entering the NFL in 2013 with San Francisco as a research and development specialist. After seven seasons with the 49ers, Adofo-Mensah was hired by Berry and the Browns in 2020. Their relationship formed from a chance meeting between the two in an elevator during the NFL combine.
Adofo-Mensah served as a de facto assistant general manager under Berry with a hand in all aspects of team operations as the Browns transformed their front office and brought some badly needed stability to the franchise.
"I came up unconventionally, but I think that my background is a positive because I didn’t have any preconceived notions or biases," Adofo-Mensah said during his introductory news conference with Cleveland reporters in 2020. He added: "I will pick every person’s brain and you find some amazing knowledge from everywhere in this league."
Cleveland Browns Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, left to right, and GM Andrew Berry watch the action from the sidelines at training camp, August 27, 2021, at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berea, Ohio. Adofo-Mensah has emerged as the front-runner for the Minnesota Vikings' general manager job. Adofo-Mensah was in Minnesota for his second formal interview with the organization on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (John Kuntz/Cleveland.com via AP)
The Vikings, who fired Rick Spielman on Jan. 10 after 16 seasons with the organization and 10 years with full authority over the roster as general manager, went 8-9 in 2021. They missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Adofo-Mensah’s background couldn’t be more different from Spielman, the son of a high school coach who played in college and watched his younger brother become a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker in the NFL. The 59-year-old Spielman worked his way up as a scout for Detroit before landing management positions with Chicago and Miami. He was a meticulous evaluator who frequently stood off by himself while the Vikings practiced, carefully watching every drill and play.
The six others who had video interviews this month with the Vikings were Philadelphia director of player personnel Brandon Brown, Cleveland vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook, Tennessee director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, Philadelphia vice president of football operations Catherine Raîche, Tampa Bay vice president of player personnel John Spytek and New England scouting consultant Eliot Wolf. Half of that group is Black, and Raîche is a woman.
The first order of business for Adofo-Mensah, in conjunction with ownership, will be to hire a head coach to replace Mike Zimmer, who was fired after eight seasons on the same day as Spielman.
The Vikings, who are one of nine teams with a vacancy, have conducted initial video conference interviews with eight candidates: Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
Ryans was on staff with the 49ers during Adofo-Mensah's last three seasons with the team.
Then there are the many conundrums surrounding the roster, with one of the tightest salary cap situations in the league this year. There is a scheduled $45 million charge for quarterback Kirk Cousins in the final season of his contract.