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Has any player Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has cut or let walk been good after leaving Vikings?

Kirk Cousins' departure puts a spotlight on Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah this offseason

Year 3 of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah era is set to be the biggest and most important for the Minnesota Vikings in arguably a decade. 

Kirk Cousins leaving for Atlanta sets the stage for the biggest decision of Adofo-Mensah's career: finding a franchise quarterback. If he hits it out of the park, he could be the GM in Minnesota for a very, very long time. If he swings and misses, his could be looking for work in short order. 

But what is the fairest way to judge him? Is it the draft alone? Will it be how the QB future works out? How much should his other decisions weigh in grading the job he's done? He's released or let a lot of big name players leave as free agents and for the most part none of them have excelled in their new homes – and the Vikings have had no trouble replacing them. 

Let's break them down player-by-player...  

Dalvin Cook

For the Vikings the lack of a running game in 2023 severely hampered the team's offense, especially after Cousins was lost for the season. With that said the move to cut Cook before the season proved to be wise as Cook was was downright bad for the Jets in 2023. He was so ineffective that the Jets cut him after 15 games. The 28-year-old back rushed for just 214 yards on 67 carries for a measly 3.2 yards per attempt. The Ravens snatched up Cook for their playoff run but he averaged an even worse 2.9 YPC and wound up not playing in the team's AFC Championship game loss to the Chiefs.

Dalvin Tomlinson and Za'Darius Smith

Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson signed with the Browns in March while edge rusher Za'Darius Smith was traded in May. Cleveland had one of the best defenses in the league, allowing the fewest yards in 2023. 

Smith saw his sack total drop form 10 in 2022 with the Vikings to 5.5 with the Browns while playing around 200 fewer snaps. His pass rush grade improved from 85.9 in 2022 (10th among pass rushers) to 86.8 last season (9th). Smith impressed enough to get a new two-year, $23.5 million deal with Cleveland.

Tomlinson raised his sack total only slightly, from 2.5 to 3 in 2023. The 29-year-old played 72 more snaps in 2023 than he did in 2022. Both of Tomlinson's pass rush grade and run defense grades dropped in Cleveland.

Adam Thielen

Hometown product Adam Thielen was cut after nine years in Minnesota. Thielen landed with Carolin,  catching passes from No. 1 pick Bryce Young. As the young QB's top target, Thielen caught over 100 passes and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2018.

While baseline statistics may show a bounce-back year for Thielen, looking deeper it looks like 2023 was more of a volume situation. Thielen registered the second-most receptions per game (6.1) of his career while his yards per catch dropped below 10.0 for the first time in his career.

After Thielen was released the Vikings drafted Jordan Addison in the first round and  Addison caught 70 passes for 911 yards and proved to be an immediate fit as Minnesota's No. 2 receiver opposite Justin Jefferson.

Tyler Conklin

Perhaps the most successful of the players who left Minnesota during Adofo-Mensah's first two years is Tyler Conklin. The tight end signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Jets in 2022 and has since caught 119 passes for 1,173 yards and three touchdowns. 

Though Conklin has been a success elsewhere the Vikings haven't necessarily missed the 2018 fifth-round pick after trading for T.J. Hockenson at the 2022 trade deadline.

Eric Kendricks

Kendricks was cut along with Thielen after a long career in Minnesota. The linebacker landed in Los Angeles with the Chargers where he started 14 games, playing in 15, and saw his percentage of defensive snaps played drop below 90% for the first time since his rookie season.

The 31-year-old finished the season with 3.5 sacks and six pass breakups while registering 117 total tackles. His defensive grade (72.3), pass rush grade (82.5) and coverage grade (62.1) all improved from his final season with the Vikings, which was notoriously bad for almost every defender in defensive coordinator Ed Donatell's scheme. The Chargers cut him and he's since signed with the 49ers. 

Minnesota found an immediate replacement in undrafted rookie Ivan Pace Jr.

Anthony Barr

Barr was cut in 2022 and latched on with Dallas for a year, where he had just one sack and 58 total tackles. The Cowboys chose not to re-sign Barr the following offseason and he remained without a team until the Vikings picked him up late in the 2023 season. Barr played in parts of four games where he registered just one tackle and a fumble recovery. 

Patrick Peterson

Peterson had a resurgent 2022, intercepting five passes and accumulating a career-high 66 total tackles for the Vikings. Despite that Peterson was allowed to walk last offseason, eventually landing in Pittsburgh.

The 2023 season was a regression for Peterson as his coverage grade dropped from 79.7 in 2022 to 59.8 in 2023. The future Hall of Famer only picked off two passes for the Steelers while allowing QBs an 88.8 passer rating when throwing his way.

Pittsburgh ended up releasing Peterson earlier in March.

Ezra Cleveland

The Vikings traded Cleveland to Jacksonville at the trade deadline after signing Dalton Risner.

Cleveland struggled in Jacksonville, allowing 18 pressures in just 261 pass block snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. With the Vikings, Cleveland had a 72.3 pass block grade and a 72.8 run block grade over the first six games of the season. In the seven games with the Jaguars, Cleveland had a 43.6 pass block grade and a 48.2 run block grade.

Despite the poor performance the Jaguars re-signed Cleveland to a three-year, $28.5 million deal ahead of free agency.

Other players the Vikings have cut during the Adofo-Mensah regime and what they have done

Dede Westbrook - Signed with Packers practice squad in November of 2022, released a month later.

Sheldon Richardson - Has not signed on with another team after 2022 cut.

Mackensie Alexander - Played one game with Dallas Cowboys in 2022, released in January 2023

Nick Vigil - Played the 2022 season with Arizona. Signed by Jets in August 2023, released later that month. Joined Vikings late in 2023 season, appearing in parts of eight games.

Xavier Woods - Has played the previous two seasons with Carolina racking up 147 total tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Michael Pierce - Returned to Baltimore during the 2022 offseason. His 2022 season ended after just three games but he bounced back in 2023 playing all 17 games, totaling 42 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

Chandon Sullivan -Signed with Pittsburgh on a one-year deal last offseason. He played in all 17 games, intercepting one pass on 422 defensive snaps. Sullivan contributed on special teams with 222 special teams snaps.

Irv Smith Jr. - Was named Bengals starting tight end ahead of 2023 season. A hamstring injury in Week 3 sidelined him for several weeks. Lost starting job to Tanner Hudson and Drew Sample. Bengals inked him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal Monday.

Duke Shelley - Signed with Raiders last offseason but was cut at the end of camp. Shelley was picked up by the Rams where he became a special-teamer.

Cam Dantzler - Washington picked up Dantzler off of waivers in March 2023 but cut him in May. He caught on with the Bills but was released before training camp started with an injury designation. The Texans signed Dantzler for a week in August before cutting him. He spent the 2023 season on the Saints' practice squad.