Will this scene be enacted in 2022? The defection of a Browns executive to the Vikings increases the likelihood. (Minneapolis Star-Tribuen)
Dots are being laid to connect Browns to quarterback Kirk Cousins
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from news bits around the NFL …
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was probably Andrew Berry’s boldest hire in two years as Browns GM. He had no relevant background in football other than seven years in the San Francisco 49ers analytics division. Before that, Adofo-Mensah traded commodities and managed stock portfolios on Wall Street.
Adofo-Mensah played basketball at Princeton University and, as such, spoke the same language as Ivy Leaguers Berry and Paul DePodesta, the Browns' chief strategy officer. Berry named Adofo-Mensah vice president of football operations in May of 2020. He basically became Berry’s assistant GM.
And now, two years later, Adofo-Mensah, 40, is on the verge of being named Minnesota Vikings general manager, per multiple reports. He also was a finalist for the same job with the Chicago Bears.
This is the NFL in 2022. Following the lead of Major League Baseball, general managers in increasing demand are younger and schooled in business, economics and analytics as much as football. Old-school football dinosaurs like John Dorsey, 61, and Scott Pioli, 56, are shut out of the hiring cycle, relegated to minor roles such as “senior personnel consultant” or analyst with NFL Network or ESPN.
When Berry announced the hiring of Adofo-Mensah, he lauded him as a “continuous learner” with “fantastic interpersonal and communication skills.” Berry projected Adofo-Mensah as an “outstanding manager” who would be a “strategic thought partner.”
The only exposure media had to Adofo-Mensah was in a Zoom call on Day 2 of the 2021 draft. Berry trotted out Adofo-Mensah to speak on the selection of receiver Anthony Schwartz in the third round.
Adofo-Mensah asserted the Browns “are probably doing it wrong” if they didn’t find ways to utilize the world-class sprinter’s 4.25 40 speed as a rookie.
“You can get blinded by the one elite trait or things like that, and that does happen in the league, but we do not think we have done that with this player,” he continued. “We think we got a good player for the value that we saw on our board.”
Berry’s investment in Adofo-Mensah now will pay dividends to the Browns. They will receive a compensatory pick after the third round in the next two drafts as a result of amendments to the league’s Rooney Rule in 2020 to promote workplace diversity.
Teams are now rewarded compensatory picks in two successive drafts if they lose minority coaches or executives to higher jobs with other teams, as long as they were employed a minimum of two years. The rule was enacted to encourage the advancement of minorities, including women, in meaningful leadership roles.
Exactly which number pick the Browns will receive probably will be determined next month.
The minority hiring compensatory picks will be placed after the compensatory picks awarded to teams that suffered greater free agent losses than gains in 2021.
In the 2021 draft, there were five free agent compensatory picks awarded at the end of Round 3, so the first minority compensatory pick started at No. 101.
When there are multiple minority compensatory picks, they are awarded according to regular draft order.
As of now, the Browns have picks in every round plus an extra one in Round 4 as a result of a trade with Detroit last year.
Any extra picks gives the Browns’ the luxury of using one of them to draft a kicker, like the Bengals did with Evan McPherson in the fifth round in 2021.
The quarterback issue
If Adofo-Mensah lands the Vikings GM job, it strengthens an existing relationship with the Browns established by the hiring of former Vikings coaches Kevin Stefanski, Joe Woods and Mike Priefer.
If you connect the dots …
Adofo-Mensah is expected to have a voice in the hiring of the next Vikings head coach. Then the new Vikings GM and head coach would determine the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Minnesota media expect the Vikings to trade Cousins and start their new regime with a new quarterback.
Stefanski was Cousins’ quarterback coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 and 2019. Cousins’ record those seasons was 18-12-1. He was 15-17 after Stefanski left for the Browns.
Cousins is on the books for a $35 million contract in 2022. Joel Corry of CBSSports.com has speculated that a trade of Cousins would require the new team to absorb up to $25 million of Cousins’ salary, similar to deals last year that netted the Colts Carson Wentz, the Rams Matthew Stafford and the Lions Jared Goff.
As for the price tag for Cousins in trade, it could range as high as what the Colts paid the Eagles for Wentz – a third-round pick in the coming draft, plus a conditional pick in 2023 that could go as high as the first round.