It’s a revealing fork in the road for Adam Thielen afoot, the Vikings 32-year-old wide receiver whose resume already echoes in franchise history.
The Vikings lost to the New York Giants on Sunday, ending their season with a home defeat and creating an offseason that may be more mysterious than the 2022 version. Minnesota didn’t experience “normal” production this season from Thielen, who was a sidekick to Justin Jefferson since the LSU alumnus joined the NFL in 2020.
It’s a Revealing Fork in the Road for Adam Thielen
These are the prongs on the fork.
Thielen Won’t Retire
Thielen may have slowed down compared to his 2016-2021 performance, but he will not retire, sources familiar with Thielen’s future tell VikingsTerritory. So, you can rule that one out.
If the Vikings are indeed ready to turn the page on the Thielen era, it won’t be via his retirement. Thielen believes he can still contribute, whether with the Vikings or elsewhere. Plus, Thielen is 32 years old, and while he isn’t a dominant WR2 anymore, there’s a spot for him in the league as a WR3. It just depends on what the Vikings think about his pricetag. Thielen’s cap number is $19.9 million in 2023. Yikes.
But you can yank calling her quits from the equation because the Minnesota State product isn’t ready.
Restructure or Paycut
Last year, Thielen accepted a contractual restructure, spreading his dead cap hit into the 2025 season. It was a tactic often used by the Vikings — and other NFL organizations — pushing money into the future as general managers know the salary cap continually expands.
But in the 2023 offseason, it’s probably unlikely that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will push the cash further into the future. Therefore, Thielen could be asked to take an honest-to-goodness paycut. You know — the kind Tom Brady always takes and fans, therefore, suggest others follow suit. For the record, Brady is virtually the only player who does it.
Why would Thielen do this? That is unclear. He’s guaranteed a lot of money. “Taking one for the team” only benefits, well, the team. His only path to retiring as a Viking could be willfully accepting less money. As a businessman, he should avoid this option. As a folklorish character pulling at fans’ heartstrings — sure. We shall see.
Adofo-Mensah can trade Thielen before June 1st, incur a $13.5 million dead cap hit, and save $6.4 million for other players. If he somehow waits until post-June-1st, the Vikings would be on the hook for a $6.5 dead cap in 2023 while saving $13.4 million.
It’s not a glorious financial situation to trade Thielen either way, but this is how it works when a team backloads a deal. For compensation, Minnesota won’t receive much — likely a late-round draft pick, perhaps a 5th- or 6th-Rounder or so.
On the whole, though, Thielen’s future in Minnesota is restructuring via paycut or trade.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).