Adam Thielen Says Vikings Cold-Shouldered Him Before His Release

Adam Thielen

Getty Former Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen

In the aftermath of his release from the Minnesota Vikings, Adam Thielen kept it cordial when speaking on his hometown team.

But with a full year passed since he signed with the Carolina Panthers, Thielen shined a light on the team’s 2023 offseason that led to his release.

While there was belief that Thielen, who carried a $19.9 million cap hit into last season, could have taken a pay cut for a third consecutive year to stay with the team, he revealed that the Vikings never left the door open for him.

“They did not, no,” Thielen told DJ Siddiqi in an April 17 Forbes article. “It never really got to that point. At that point, it was, do you guys want me to come back this year?”

Thielen acknowledged that the new Vikings regime under Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has a new timeline toward contention that involves resetting the roster with younger talent after the 2017 NFC Championship squad has all but dissolved from the Vikings ranks.

“Obviously they’re building for the future.” Thielen said. “They really did some great things. They drafted a young receiver (Jordan Addison) that did a great job. I think they had a very specific plan of what their time was for the future and they’re attacking that and going after it. It is what it is. Have nothing but respect for all those guys.”

In the past, Adofo-Mensah seemed to draw a line in bringing veterans back on more affordable contracts. However, Thielen wanted to remain a focal point of the offense. He grew frustrated with his role after the 2022 season.

After averaging seven targets per game through the first 13 games of the 2022 season, Thielen saw just 20 targets in the Vikings’ final five games after T.J. Hockenson established himself in Minnesota, per Pro Football Reference. Thielen caught three or fewer passes in that span, averaging 24.2 yards per game.

Forcing Thielen to take a pay cut and relegate him to a smaller role is not what Thielen would have wanted. Allowing him to carve out the role he wanted as the Panthers’ top receiver proved to be a move that was best for both parties. Thielen’s comments a year after leaving Minnesota are evident of just that.

Former Vikings WR Adam Thielen Says Leaving Minnesota Was a Blessing

Adam Thielen

GettyFormer Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen signed with the Carolina Panthers in the 2023 offseason.

The modern NFL rarely sees a player remain with a single team for the entirety of their careers.

And while Thielen had hoped to be an outlier to that trend, the business of the league made no exception for the Minnesota native.

However, Thielen has taken positives from relocating to North Carolina for what could be the remainder of his career.

“Obviously you look back at it — when I’m done playing — it’s a little bit of a bummer that I wasn’t able to finish my career there,” Thielen said. “There’s so many blessings that came out of it that are not going to show up in the wins and losses. I’m so blessed that this experience happened because it’s really shaped myself and my family for the future.”

While the Vikings reinvented their roster, Thielen, 33, took the chance to reinvent his career.

In his 11th season in the league, 103 catches last season tied a Panthers franchise record for receivers set by Steve Smith Sr. in 2005. His 1,014 receiving yards were the most in a single season since 2018.

“Probably my biggest year as an individual, as a family, just kind of going on a new adventure and getting out of our comfort zone,” Thielen said. “I think sometimes we get in our comfort zone and it’s hard to grow. This forced us to get out of our comfort zone. Me individually to really have to be the best leader inside of the building and outside of the building for my family. I really had a lot of growth individually and learned a ton.”

Vikings are Entering a New Era

Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen

GettyJustin Jefferson (left) and Adam Thielen (right) after the Vikings’ win over the Panthers in a 2023 matchup.

Thielen’s departure is the necessary evil that Adofo-Mensah has put into practice since becoming Vikings general manager two years ago.

The former commodities trader ushered in a new era for the Vikings by shedding inflated contracts attached to veterans past their prime. Several contracts grew unmanageable in the final years of the Rick Spielman era as the team tried to keep their Super Bowl window open with restructures and kicking earnings down the road.

Last season, the Vikings made moves to clear up their future cap situation, parting ways with Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks and Thielen. but so long as Kirk Cousins was on the roster, the Vikings appeared to be in win-now mode.

That changed this offseason with Cousins leaving for the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings are eating $28.5 million in dead cap attached to prorated bonuses awarded to Cousins that were offered to create immediate cap space to piece together a competitive roster the past two years.

But by finally ripping the Band-Aid off, the Vikings are on a path to financial flexibility in their roster building.

The defense is already seeing the boon to the future cap space availably with the signings of outside linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel and inside linebacker Blake Cashman — all top-100 free agents on Pro Football Focus’ 2024 rankings.

By the 2025 offseason, the Vikings will be among the biggest spenders in free agency. They’re projected to have $102.4 million in cap space, the fourth-most cap space among all 32 NFL teams.

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