The Minnesota Vikings are in for a shakeup after facing the harsh reality that they are far away from contending for a Super Bowl title, despite a 13-win season.
Rebuilding the roster to be more competitive may come at the expense of the team’s household names — including Minnesota native Adam Thielen. He has been asked to restructure his contract each of the past two seasons and will likely be approached again this offseason.
His wife, Caitlin, posted on Instagram a photo of them on the field after the Vikings’ 31-24 season-ending loss to the New York Giants. She included a caption that spelled doubt about his future with the Vikings.
“And just like that the season and our time here in MN may be at an end,” Caitlin wrote. “Super proud of your attitude this season and always fighting.”
Adam Thielen Among Vikings Veterans on the Chopping Block This Offseason
The Vikings had to come to terms with the long-held fact that the defense is just not good. Fortifying the unit is going to take immense investment in both the draft and in prized free agents who are in their prime, not over the hill, like in past years.
Minnesota has $101 million, roughly 44% of the expected cap space next season, sunk into just five players, all of whom will be over 30 years old — Kirk Cousins (34), Harrison Smith (34), Za’Darius Smith (31), Eric Kendricks (31) and Thielen (32).
Thielen’s name surfaced due to his $19.9 million cap hit next season, which currently ranks 13th at his position, per Over the Cap. His nearly $20 million payday in 2023 is on par with that of Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards in 2020 and ranks second in both receptions per game (8.2) and receiving yards (109.3) per game this season.
By the past offseason’s standards, Diggs’ salary is a steal. Thielen, on the other hand, isn’t producing like a player at that pay grade.
Thielen ranked 50th in receptions per game (4.1) and 60th in receiving yards per game (42.1). Thielen remains one of the league’s best red-zone weapons with the fifth-most receiving touchdowns (30) since 2020, however, he has faded from his once prominent role in the Vikings offense.
Important Deadline Ahead for Vikings-Adam Thielen
It’s not as simple as just saying Thielen should restructure again. Two past restructures have kicked his earnings down to the final two years of his contract. The amount of guaranteed money owed due to those past restructures has put Minnesota in a predicament of paying a soon-to-be 33-year-old receiver nearly $20 million next season.
Minnesota could ask Thielen to take a pay cut, push those earnings onto added void years on his contract, or cut him with a deadline for next season approaching.
On the third day of the 2023 league year, March 19, Thielen’s base salary of $11.8 million becomes fully guaranteed. The Vikings could reach a restructuring before that date and push those earnings further down the road in the form of void years.
But that’s a hole the organization has been digging for some time.
The option that would lighten his cap hit the most would be to cut him with a post-June 1 designation, which would save $13.4 million of cap space, per Over the Cap. Minnesota would have to eat only Thielen’s $6.5 million signing bonus next season.
Neither options are pretty at this juncture, but it only gets worse in 2024, with Thielen’s cap hit exceeding $21.6 million.