For months, Thielen, a natural competitor, lobbied that he has more left in the tank approaching the age of 33. The Vikings felt otherwise and couldn’t manage his inflated $20 million cap hit (ranked 14th among wide receivers) due to restructures in his contract the past two seasons.
The gap between what Minnesota was willing to pay Thielen and what kind of pay cut he could accept was too wide, sending Thielen to free agency where he eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers.
Thielen, appearing on the Star Tribune’s Thursday’s Daily Delivery podcast on May 5, broke his silence on the impasse he had with the Vikings front office.
“I think there are two sides of it. It was a bummer. I didn’t want to leave Minnesota. I wanted to end my career there. Obviously that would be the perfect fairy tale way to do it, right? But that’s not reality,” Thielen said. “I’m so thankful for that organization, Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah] and KOC [Kevin O’Connell] and the staff. The way they handled this throughout the process was first-class.”
Adam Thielen’s Usage Didn’t Align With His Pay With Vikings
While the argument of whether Thielen is still an elite wide receiver or could have handled a larger workload is subjective without knowing the full details from inside the building, his pay for the 2023 season did not align with the top players in the league.
Thielen was in line to be paid like a top-20 receiver in the twilight of his career after the Vikings restructured his contract twice to free up immediate cap space to push for the playoffs the past two seasons. Unfortunately, his usage did not align with his contract which had been hit with red marker several times.
Thielen ranked 50th in receptions per game (4.1) and 60th in receiving yards per game (42.1). He’s still proven to be one of the league’s most dominant red-zone threats, posting the fifth-most receiving touchdowns (30) since 2020.
Adam Thielen Speaks on Joining Panthers
Onto the next stage of his career, Thielen is the elder statesman of a wide receiver room that will be fed by No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young.
But while Thielen appears to be in the fast lane for a large role in Carolina, he isn’t taking anything for granted entering his 11th year in the league.
“For me, you have to go prove it on the field every single day. You have to show you’re not getting older and slowing down,” he told the Star Tribune. “This was just a great offseason for me. From the day the season was over, I was able to get back to training — get faster, stronger and more explosive.”