Indianapolis — Given his previous career as a portfolio manager and commodities trader on Wall Street, no one should have been surprised that Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was a deal-making machine in his first year on the job.
During his first draft, Adofo-Mensah made 10 trades. And a few months later, at the trading deadline, he acquired tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions for a package of picks. That was the second trade between the division rivals, with the sides swapping first-round draft picks, which allowed the Lions to move up 20 spots to get wide receiver Jameson Williams.
In the past, trading within the division, particularly one involving a Pro Bowl-caliber player like Hockenson, was uncommon. But Adofo-Mensah and Lions general manager Brad Holmes are showing that way of thinking is becoming less common with this current wave of first-time decision-makers.
“I can’t answer that for everybody,” Adofo-Mensah said Tuesday at the league’s scouting combine. “Just for myself, it’s one of those things — I get it; it’s hard. When you make these decisions, you run the risk of being second-guessed, and understanding there’s uncertainty to all of it.
“I think as these new GMs come into the league, they’ve grown up in a world where these trades have happened more frequently,” Adofo-Mensah continued. “So, I think they’re a little more used to the uncertainty. Ultimately, look, I know I’m going to get second-guessed for a lot of the things I do, and ultimately, I have to be able to sit on the couch when it’s all said and done, minimize regret, be OK with what I did, and (know) I was intentional about trying to chase a championship.”
Immediately after dealing Hockenson, Holmes made similar comments, joking that the broadcast cameras would be quick to focus on him every time the tight end made a catch when the teams matched up. And Hockenson certainly delivered in a way the Vikings hoped, catching 60 passes in 10 games in the regular season and snagging another 10 for 129 yards in his playoff debut.
On the other hand, the Lions didn’t seem to miss his presence, winning eight of their final 10 games. Plus, they got valuable draft assets in return, including a second-rounder this year. The mutual success ensures the two sides wouldn’t hesitate to work together in the future.
“I know, ultimately, your first path to the playoffs is winning your division, right?,” Adofo-Mensah said. “So, you never want to obviously make your division stronger. But, ultimately, the best path I have to the playoffs is putting the best team on the field. So, that’s where that starts. Brad and I have a really good relationship, and I said this earlier, you can do trades where both sides kind of know what their interests are and both can win.
“Sometimes, you’re trading time value,” Adofo-Mensah continued. “My needs might be more current, and his needs might be more (in the) future. So, you can come together and trade a player for draft picks and have that make sense. There’s no reason you need to run people over. I plan on being in this business more than one year, and I want to be able pick up the phone and call people and do those things.
“That’s how I’ve dealt in this business, that’s how I’ve dealt in Wall Street. I wasn’t going to be a guy that was going to call people up and try and see when they were vulnerable or convince them of something they don’t want to do. I have a vision of what I think player value is or whatever, and I’m trying to do that, and if you have your vision and that can work, then let’s meet together in the middle. If not, we’ll go our separate way and go with alternatives.”