Former Vikings Star Signs $25 Million Deal With NFC Foe

O'Connell, Cousins, Vikings

Getty Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell (left) talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins (right) during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A long-time starter with the Minnesota Vikings has found himself a new home in the NFC South Division.

Former Vikings wide receiver and hometown Minnesota hero Adam Thielen inked a long-term deal with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, March 19. Pat McAfee of The Pat McAfee Show was the first to break the news and did so via Twitter.

“🗣 🗣 BREAKING NEWS. According to my source(s), @athielen19 is signing with the Carolina Panthers,” McAfee wrote. “The 3-time Pro Bowler has agreed to a 3-year deal. The 32-year-old feels GREAT … according to my source(s).”

According to Pro Football Reference, Thielen was actually selected to the Pro Bowl only twice, in 2017 and 2018. He was also a second-team All-Pro selection in 2017.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero followed up McAfee’s initial report with the detail that the three-year contract will pay Thielen $25 million in total, including $10 million in the first year.

Vikings Cut WR Adam Thielen Due to Financial Concerns

Adam Thielen

GettyWide receiver Adam Thielen, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots during a game at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The Vikings cut the nine-year veteran on March 10 after discussions on a potential pay decrease between the team and receiver stalled.

Minnesota restructured Thielen’s deal last offseason, which pushed his salary cap number to nearly $20 million in 2023. The Vikings ultimately saved $6.4 million against their cap number by cutting Thielen when they did, though the team could have saved considerably more by cutting the wideout with a post-June 1 designation.

Thielen’s play wasn’t specifically the issue that led to his departure, though that play at his particular price was. The receiver made 70 catches and gained 716 yards while scoring six touchdowns last season.

What’s more, the cost of the team’s receiving corps is about to skyrocket when Justin Jefferson signs what most believe will be the most expensive wide receiver contract in NFL history and could also include the most guaranteed dollars.

As of Sunday, the Vikings were pushing a $4 million salary cap deficit heading into 2023, making it impossible to justify Thielen at a $19 million-plus cap hit.

QB Issues Primary Concern For Vikings Moving Forward

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the New York Giants during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Minnesota is undeniably a team in transition, as starting linebacker Eric Kendricks and starting cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. joined Thielen as cap casualties over the last couple of weeks.

More change could be coming as the Vikings front office struggles with the question of what to do with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The four-time Pro Bowler has performed at an above-average clip for the franchise over his five-year tenure, though he is set to cost Minnesota $20.25 million against the cap next season and another $46.75 million over four consecutive void years beginning in 2024, per Spotrac.

The previous regime hitched its wagon to Cousins and created a scenario in which it is difficult for current general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to move on — the reasons being that there aren’t necessarily any better options available, even when considering a reduction in cost.

The free agency market at quarterback is all but dried up and the Vikings have a weak slate of draft selections, picking late in the first round (No. 24) and currently holding the rights to just five draft choices total in 2023.

Minnesota’s one home run swing option is to make a run at Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is exploring new opportunities after that franchise applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to the former MVP last week.

The cost to the Vikings to procure Jackson is certain to exceed $250 million in total money with at least 80% of that guaranteed, based on the types of offers Jackson shunned from the Ravens last offseason and during negotiations over the last several weeks.

Beyond that, Baltimore could match any offer the Vikings make, a likely outcome if Minnesota does not come with a strong financial package. If the Ravens decline to match, Minnesota would owe Baltimore two first-round picks in exchange for Jackson on top of whatever contract the quarterback ultimately signs to join the Vikings.

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