A native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Adam Thielen’s loyalty to the Minnesota Vikings is unmatched by any player on their team in the NFL.
After being cut as an undrafted rookie, Thielen did not jump ship for another organization. He stayed with the squad, agreeing to sign with the practice squad. He eventually relished a role as a special teams player before becoming one of the league’s top wide receivers and a two-time Pro Bowler.
The 31-year-old remains adamant about staying in Minnesota. But with the Vikings $16.0 million above the 2022 salary cap, per OverTheCap, the franchise will have to reevaluate its most expensive contracts and those players’ futures in Minnesota.
And Thielen is well aware that he will be among the Vikings’ many “tough decisions” this offseason.
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“There are going to be some tough moves and decisions ahead”
Speaking on KFAN on Friday, February 18, Thielen admitted he was likely one of many personnel decisions to come for the new regime of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. .
In 2022, Thielen wins the highest cap of his career of $16.8 million. Thielen’s production has dwindled in recent seasons due to injury and the emergence of Justin Jefferson as the team’s main receiving threat, justifying the possibility of Thielen accepting a “reduction salary” for the 2022 season.
The good news: Thielen looks set to do whatever it takes to help the Vikings move forward in a new direction, saying ‘he couldn’t be more excited’ for the future with the team .
“There are going to be hard times [roster] moves and decisions ahead, and I’ll probably be a part of those decisions, but I couldn’t be more excited about the direction of the team,” Thielen said on the Power trigger morning show on KFAN, by Sean Borman.
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Despite the concern expressed by Thielen, he is just playing humbly.
In 2021, Thielen agreed to a contract restructuring that converted $10 million of his $11.1 million base salary into a 2021 signing bonus, leaving only $2.5 million of that bonus in the books for 2021 and the other $2.5 million increases placed on the cap for the remainder. of his contract.
His Friday comments indicate he may also be willing to convert his $12 million base salary this offseason, pushing his guaranteed earnings further down the road and turning that “pay cut” into a promissory note as he is approaching retirement.
Suppose the Vikings and Thielen go down that similar route, converting $10 million of his $12 million base salary for the 2022 season into a signing bonus and stretching it over the final three seasons of his contract. In that case, Minnesota could create at least $6 million in cap space and potentially more if they add void years to his contract.
Many more decisions to come
Thielen is just one of many veterans the Vikings are expected to make decisions as the first day of free agency approaches on March 16.
Entering the final year of his contract, Kirk Cousins tops the decision list against the new regime, which has touted its support for Cousins since O’Connell was hired.
Danielle Hunter’s contract also needs a rework with an $18 million roster bonus ready to toll five days after the free agency window opens. The Vikings can convert that into a signing bonus and spread those earnings over the rest of Hunter’s deal to lower his $26.1 million cap. The other realistic option is to trade the elite rusher who has struggled with injuries for the past two seasons.
Anthony Barr and Patrick Peterson are among several defensive starters expected to reach free agency if not re-signed in the coming weeks. Safety Xavier Woods, Nick Vigil and Mackensie Alexander are other starters who are pending free agents.
These are just the expected changes on the horizon for Vikings. They could make plenty of surprising moves this offseason as the new brain trust of O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah tries to chart a new course for the franchise but must first tidy up the mess left behind by former tenants.