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EAGAN — Like the Minnesota Twins’ slogan from a few years back, “This is how we baseball,” Minnesota Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s comment about the team being in the middle of a “competitive rebuild” is sure to be the source of many call backs throughout the 2022 season and beyond.

Usually catch phrases aren’t meant to be overanalyzed but as Vikings fans try to get a handle on their team’s direction under new leadership, there is no choice but to read into what Adofo-Mensah means by calling the present situation a “competitive rebuild.” The difficult thing to understand about the new GM’s declaration is that the Vikings’ moves so far have only been with an eye on the competitive part and not at all on the rebuild part.

Let’s go through the moves to date: The Vikings extended Kirk Cousins through 2023 and gave him a no-trade clause, restructured Harrison Smith and Adam Thielen’s contracts, signed Harrison Phillips, Jordan Hicks and Za’Darius Smith, cut Michael Pierce, picked up Danielle Hunter’s roster bonus and then restructured his deal, re-signed Sean Mannion and added a blocking tight end, slot corner and backup linemen.

In the process, they added void years to Cousins and Thielen’s deals, which will be dead cap hits down the road, made Smith’s dead cap hit $11 million if they release him next year and set up Hunter for a monster extension next offseason when he’s a year older.

The most rebuild-y thing they did was reportedly take phone calls (or make phone calls?) about all the aforementioned core players. But since none of them were moved and the sum of the new contracts did not significantly improve the Vikings’ long-term cap situation, there doesn’t appear to be a long-term play in sight.

An astute Twitter follower asked this question: If they aren’t making moves to rebuild, shouldn’t we still be judging them on Super Bowl or bust still? Why have the goal posts moved to being “competitive” when the Vikings signed Cousins (and kept him) to take the team where Case Keenum could not in 2017?

That might not be realistic with the present roster but if the approach hasn’t changed, why should the expectations change? The previous leadership made similar moves last offseason and we expected them to win or get sent outta town.

We see teams all over the NFL moving money around, creating contracts with low cap hits in the first year and keeping older players when they truly believe they have a shot to win the Super Bowl. The words “competitive rebuild” do not scream that the Vikings believe they can win this year, even if the moves have been made with winning in 2022 in mind. It sounds more like hedging against the possibility that this goes exactly the same way it went in 2020 and 2021 or worse.

The draft doesn’t count as rebuilding, by the way. Everyone drafts players. The Vikings didn’t increase their number of draft picks through trading away older assets so the draft won’t be any different for them than the teams who are ready to win this year.

Is the rebuild part the fact that they haven’t done anything absolutely nutty to win in 2022? They didn’t trade the farm for a star like Tyreek Hill — though they did reportedly check in on the Deshaun Watson situation. It’s a competitive rebuild with Cousins, who they just extended and is set to be 34 this season, but it wouldn’t have been a competitive rebuild they gotten the opportunity to send three first-round picks for Watson? Hm.

Another rebuild-y thing would have been to let young players who showed flashes get a chance to play big roles next year. But signing Jordan Hicks means that Blake Lynch, Troy Dye and Chazz Surratt won’t be battling it out for a starting linebacker job. Adding Za’Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips indicates it’s a no-go for Kenny Willekes, Armon Watts, Patrick Jones and Janarius Robinson.

That’s all perfectly fine if the goal is to chase a Super Bowl. In that case, we’d be looking for the Vikings to sign some corners, a couple of interior linemen, trade a draft pick for a proven player and make their cap guy figure it all out later. Now if they do those things in the coming weeks, we’ll ask, “why did you say rebuild?”

If not, what will they do from here to set themselves up for the future?

A few things come to mind. First, drafting a quarterback in the first round. That would throw present needs to the wind for a player who can only help them in the future. It would make the whole thing clear: They’d be aiming for the playoffs in 2022 with the plan to turn things over to a QB on a rookie deal in 2023. Now that’s a competitive rebuild.

Trading back in the first round could be another way to accumulate assets for the future. It’s not a fresh idea to Vikings fans but it worked last year. Even picking a position that they don’t need like wide receiver would hint that they’re not totally focused on the present.

Signing free agents who are 27 or younger and haven’t gotten a chance in other places would be a nod toward tomorrow. Phillips is 26 but Hicks and Smith are on the back nine of their careers.

Here’s the thing that some folks are unfortunately missing about the “competitive rebuild” conversation: Vikings fans want exactly that. Nobody wants to see their team hire Urban Meyer and sink to 2-15. They all want to be Kansas City, going from playoff contention to Patrick Mahomes. Nobody wants to get stuck in the mud like the Jets or Giants. Nobody wanted the 2022 Vikings to tank. But they also wanted their young, analytical face of the franchise to set them up to go in a fresh direction. So far, that hasn’t happened.

That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It doesn’t mean the Vikings can’t get to a place where they are competitive and building. It doesn’t mean Adofo-Mensah should be sent on a plane back to Wall Street or that this team will never improve. But in order to get behind the idea that they’re building toward something bigger, there has to be something to grasp onto. That hasn’t happened so far. If it doesn’t, maybe he should have gone with, “This is how we football,” instead.

Anyway, only five more months of the offseason to go…

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