Cowboys ‘Make Sense’ for Former 2-Time Pro Bowl WR: Analyst

Mike McCarthy

Getty The Cowboys could be an ideal destination for ex-Vikings WR Adam Thielen.

The Dallas Cowboys may be the next destination for a notable wide receiver who just hit the free agency market.

As suggested by Pro Football Network’s Ian Valentino, former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is a veteran who makes “sense” for the Cowboys. The 10-year veteran was released by the Vikings on Friday, March 11 after the two sides were unable to come to a contract resolution.

Why the Cowboys Could Target Adam Thielen

Valentino argues that signing Thielen — rather than acquiring a more expensive option in DeAndre Hopkins — would enable the Cowboys to spread the money around to re-sign key free agents.

“With a lot of money tied up between Michael Gallup, Tony Pollard, and Ezekiel Elliott, and having to deal with Dalton Schultz hitting free agency, this team could also look to spread the money it would take to get Hopkins,” said Valentino. “That could mean signing Thielen as a complementary player to CeeDee Lamb and a healthy Gallup, plus re-signing Schultz, and keeping Elliott with a pay cut.”

Acquiring Hopkins would cost the Cowboys $19.5 million in base salary for the 2023 season and nearly $15 million in base salary for the 2024 season. That’s not mentioning the likely cost of high draft assets that the Arizona Cardinals would covet.

Meanwhile, the upside of Thielen is lower than Hopkins, but it would cost a lot cheaper. The 32-year-old receiver won’t come close to his previous average annual salary of nearly $15 million. As Valentino notes, the more likely outcome is Thielen earning around $10 million as a low-end No. 2 receiver or high-end No. 3 receiver.

“With an upside of around 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, Thielen will likely see a significant dip in average annual salary from his previous $14.89 million mark,” says Valentino. “Something closer to the $10 million range that other decent No. 2 or high-end No. 3 receivers get makes more sense.”

Adam Thielen Likely Best Used as a No. 3 Receiver

Thielen posted a solid season as the No. 2 receiver in the Vikings’ offense behind Justin Jefferson, producing 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns. However, it became clear he had lost a step or two, producing his lowest amount of touchdown catches, yards per game and catch percentage since the 2019 season.

Signing Thielen would obviously give the Cowboys a valuable red-zone weapon — he caught 24 touchdown passes during the 2020 and 2021 seasons — but if Michael Gallup doesn’t return to his 2021 form, the upside of signing Thielen wouldn’t be worth it, warns Valentino. In other words, Thielen is probably best suited to be a No. 3 receiver at this stage of his career.

“However, that would be banking on Gallup being more explosive after an offseason of continuing to rehab the ACL he tore at the end of the 2021 season,” said Valentino. “If Gallup doesn’t return to that form, Thielen wouldn’t move the needle enough for Dallas’ upside.”

As Pro Football Focus notes, Thielen was solid last season, producing a 65.0 offensive grade. With the exception of CeeDee Lamb, that grade was actually higher than every receiver on the Cowboys’ roster last season.

If Dallas is truly looking to upgrade its wide receiver position, they should look elsewhere. However, if they’re looking for a nice secondary receiver and bonafide red-zone threat, Thielen is not a bad signing at all.

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