Adam Thielen

Broncos Pursued Adam Thielen, Allen Lazard; Jerry Jeudy Still Drawing Trade Interest

MARCH 26: Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required) reiterates earlier reports that the Broncos are seeking a first-round pick in a Jeudy trade, with Troy Renck of Denver 7 tweeting that the club is holding firm on that demand. Doug Kyed of AtoZSports.com hears that Jeudy may be a more realistic trade option than Hopkins, but Denver’s insistence on a first-rounder in exchange for Jeudy could be an indication that the team does not really want to move him.

League sources tell Howe that Denver’s asking price for Sutton remains too high as well, so although the Broncos’ interest in free agent pass catchers does suggest that Payton & Co. are perhaps willing to make some changes to their receiver room, it is clear that a club that wants Jeudy or Sutton is going to need to make an especially aggressive offer.

Indeed, Cabot reports that the Browns never got close to landing Jeudy. Cleveland was prepared to deal the No. 42 overall pick in this year’s draft — the same pick that it used to acquire Elijah Moore from the Jets — but the team would have also needed to include a talented player or another high selection in the 2024 draft, and even that may not have been enough.

MARCH 22: While reports of the Broncos’ plans to keep Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton keep emerging, the again-retooling team’s starting wide receivers continue to come up in trade rumors. Denver’s pursuits of other wide receivers in free agency may provide a hint to Sean Payton‘s plans at the position.

Adam Thielen said the Broncos and Cowboys joined the Panthers in pursuing him in free agency, David Newton of ESPN.com notes, while The Score’s Jordan Schultz adds the team made an aggressive push for Allen Lazard before he signed with the Jets (Twitter link).

As the Broncos potentially helped drive up the prices for Thielen and Lazard, who respectively received $14MM and $22MM fully guaranteed, the subject will shift back to their holdover receivers. Denver rosters a former first-round pick (Jeudy), two outside receivers on veteran deals (Sutton, Tim Patrick) and a second-round deep threat who has battled steady injury problems (KJ Hamler). Given the team’s pursuits of outside help at the position, it can be assumed Payton wants to shake up this position, which has not seen major augmentations since the Jeudy and Hamler selections three years ago.

Count the Browns as a team in on Jeudy. While the Broncos want a first-round pick for Jeudy, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes the Browns have not given up on a pursuit despite their lack of a first-round selection this year. The Broncos are not truly keeping Jeudy off the market, Cabot adds, as they are willing to part with the fourth-year receiver for a strong offer.

The Cowboys look to be off the table for Jeudy, after they acquired Brandin Cooks, but teams like the Giants and Patriots have previously looked into the talented pass catcher. While DeAndre Hopkins is willing to rework his contract, the Cardinals wideout’s through-2024 deal would be more expensive to acquire than Jeudy’s. A modest fifth-year option price can extend Jeudy’s rookie deal through 2024. With some teams still look for receiving help during an offseason that brought an unremarkable free agency crop and looks to feature a lesser group of prospects in the draft, Jeudy’s name will carry value in the weeks leading up to the draft.

The Browns have Amari Cooper tied to his Cowboys-constructed $20MM-per-year deal. Although the team restructured Cooper’s contract last year, his cap numbers sit at $23.8MM in 2023 and ’24. The team also restructured Deshaun Watson‘s deal, ballooning his 2024-26 cap numbers to record-obliterating figures while dropping his 2023 hit to $19.1MM. The Browns hold just more than $10MM in cap space. Jeudy would fit alongside Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones in Cleveland; the latter is going into a contract year but produced his best season in 2022.

Denver’s wideouts have yet to put it together. Quarterback play, injuries and last year’s disjointed offense have played a major role in Jeudy and Sutton’s inconsistency. But the team’s pursuits of Thielen and Lazard will not quiet the rumblings that either Jeudy or Sutton could be on the move ahead of the draft. Sutton and Patrick’s skillsets overlap, and Thielen and Lazard also qualify as possession targets. Jeudy’s route-running chops and elusiveness differ from both the incumbent targets and the recent free agents, but at 23, he would fetch the Broncos the best haul.

The Broncos, they of no first- or second-round pick this year, continue to be faced with a choice of retaining a promising wide receiver — one who would stand to move the needle as Payton attempts to reignite Russell Wilson — or moving on in exchange for vital 2023 draft capital.

Lions, Panthers Still Interested In DJ Chark

Two DJ Chark suitors have made their intentions known this offseason. The Lions said they were interested in re-signing the former second-round pick back in January, while the Panthers met him last week. While we are nearly a week into the 2023 league year, Chark still has a market — but perhaps not quite on the level he expected.

Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said Monday (via Panthers.com’s Darin Gantt) that, despite Adam Thielen agreeing to terms on a three-year deal worth $25MM, the team is still talking with Chark. The Lions have also kept tabs on Chark, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, who notes (via Twitter) the team has discussed a Detroit return with the sixth-year wide receiver over the past week.

The Lions took a higher-end flier on Chark last year, giving him $10MM to join Amon-Ra St. Brown in a retooling receiving corps. Chark, 26, battled more ankle trouble — after a broken ankle ended his 2021 Jaguars finale — but re-emerged to become a key weapon for Jared Goff as the team made a late playoff push. Averaging a career-high 16.4 yards per reception, the 6-foot-4 target totaled 502 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games.

Lions GM Brad Holmes said he wanted to re-sign Chark, and the ex-Jaguars 1,000-yard receiver indicated he wanted to stay as well. St. Brown is in Year 3 of his rookie contract; he cannot negotiate an extension until 2024. Jameson Williams can be kept on his rookie deal through 2026. The Panthers became a player here following their trade-up for the No. 1 overall pick, which cost them D.J. Moore. Chark joined Thielen in meeting with the team last week, but even with the longtime Viking in the fold, the Panthers still have a need. They traded Chosen Anderson to the Cardinals last season; Terrace Marshall (490 yards) is Carolina’s top returning pass catcher.

Carolina will soon be building around a rookie-quarterback contract, leaving room to spend in other areas. Chark, however, will not likely qualify as a significant expense. As expected, this year’s receiver market is not producing windfalls. This FA class was not believed to be driving too much interest, and the deals handed out to its top prizes reflect that. Jakobi Meyers landed an $11MM-per-year pact, while JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s Patriots accord came in just south of $9MM per year. Neither AAV is among the top 25 at the position. Odell Beckham Jr. denied his long-rumored $20MM-per-year ask is rooted in reality, but he should not be expected to do too well, either.

Thielen did do fairly well, all things considered. The 10-year Viking was a cap casualty who is going into his age-33 season. His Panthers deal includes a $2MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2024 league year, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets, but the $14MM guaranteed could point to the Division II product playing two seasons in Charlotte. The Panthers could get out of the contract after one year, but even in a post-June 1 cut scenario, releasing Thielen in 2024 would still tag the team with $6.2MM in dead money.

Panthers Still Seeking WR Help In Free Agency

The Panthers have been working extremely hard this offseason to become unrecognizable from last year. After major changes all over the coaching staff, the team made moves to acquire the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2023, following that up with a litany of free agent moves aimed at improving the roster for new head coach Frank Reich and company.

There’s no doubt that Carolina has been swinging big in their attempts to bring in talent. Apart from retaining center Bradley Bozeman, who joined a much-improved offensive line last year, and extending their defensive leader Shaq Thompson, the team has acquired some major talent on both sides of the ball. Former Bengals safety Vonn Bell and former Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle will come in to bolster a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in point allowed, total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and rushing yards allowed.

While the Panthers’ defensive unit wasn’t great, it wasn’t one of the league’s very worst. The team’s offense, on the other hand, ranked 29th in the NFL in total yards and passing yards, leaving Carolina’s passing attack in need of some major upgrades. The Panthers were a top-10 rushing team, and despite trading away Christian McCaffrey and losing D’Onta Foreman to free agency, they are set up extremely well at running back after signing former Eagle Miles Sanders.

In the passing game, the Panthers biggest move was perhaps the trade that gave them the first pick of the draft, but they’ve made other complimentary moves, as well. While it’s widely expected that Carolina will use the pick to draft a franchise quarterback, the team made an extremely savvy move by signing former Saints and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton became superfluous in New Orleans after the arrival of Derek Carr and the announcement that Jameis Winston would remain with the team. In Carolina, though, Dalton serves a new, major role. He will either serve as a transitionary starting quarterback bridging the gap from last year’s starters to whomever the Panthers select in the draft, allowing that player to sit, learn, and develop, or he will remain one of the league’s more experienced backups, capable of starting in case of injury to or inconsistency from the team’s rookie starter.

The team also addressed the tight end position, bringing in a strong receiving tight end in Hayden Hurst, who has joined his fourth team after stints with the Ravens, Falcons, and Bengals. This addition surely helps, but after trading away D.J. Moore in the deal that gave them the top overall draft pick, more help at wide receiver is clearly needed. The team currently rosters some decent options in Terrace Marshall, Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault, but without Moore, there is an obvious absence of a No. 1 receiver.

The Panthers aren’t content with finding only one new contributor at wideout, according to Dov Kleiman of BroBible. The team has wanted two major free agent wide receivers: long-time Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and former Jaguars and Lions receiver DJ Chark. Carolina hosted Thielen on Wednesday and, as of minutes ago, are finalizing a deal to bring in the 32-year-old veteran. Chark visited two days ago and would be a strong option across from Thielen. Chark also provides the benefit of long-term potential at only 26 years old.

The Panthers’ locker room will be looking extremely different in 2023. Already on offense, Dalton, Sanders, Hurst, and now Thielen form an impressive collection of experience and talent. If the team can bring in the right quarterback in the draft and lure Chark in to join his former NFC North rival in Carolina, the Panthers’ offense could become a new strength for the team next season.

Panthers Finalizing Deal With WR Adam Thielen

The Panthers continue a busy offseason hellbent on improving their roster, coming to a three-year agreement with long-time Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, according to Ian Rapoport. Thielen becomes the fourth major addition to the Panthers’ offense this offseason and will be a major factor as they attempt to better a unit that finished 29th in passing yards last season.

Thielen is an incredible story of outperforming his resume. An undrafted free agent out of Minnesota State in 2013, Thielen attended a rookie tryout with the Vikings. He was signed to an entry level contract before getting cut in final roster cuts and signed to the practice squad as a rookie. A strong preseason performance in 2014 earned him a spot on the 53-man roster, but he mostly played on special teams for the next two years, getting negligible snaps on offense.

Thielen broke out in 2016 with a 69-catch, 967-yard performance. It solidified him as a full-time starter in the years to come. He gained new highs in each of the next two seasons with career-high 91- and 113-reception seasons of 1,276 and 1,373 receiving yards, respectively. The only thing he ever improved on from those seasons was his touchdown catch totals. In those seasons, he caught four and nine touchdowns. Two years later, Thielen would catch 14 touchdowns in 2020 and 10 in 2021.

After the impressive 2017 and 2018 seasons, Thielen signed a four-year, $64MM extension with Minnesota to keep him under contract through 2024. Hamstring issues would limit him to only ten games that year. He rebounded with the 14-touchdown 2020 season and likely would have, at the very least, matched that output in 2021 if not for ankle surgery that kept him out of four games.

Thielen stayed productive in 2022, but with star wideout Justin Jefferson firmly taking the reins on offense and the emergence of K.J. Osborn, Thielen’s contract became untenable, leading to his release. His new deal is reportedly worth $25MM over the three years with $14MM guaranteed and $10MM in the first year of the contract, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. He’ll now head to Carolina as part of a completely retrofitted offense.

The new Panthers offense will feature either a rookie, No. 1 overall pick or Andy Dalton at quarterback, Miles Sanders at running back, and Hayden Hurst at tight end. With the re-signing of center Bradley Bozeman, a largely improved offensive line completely returns. Now Thielen should figure as the top option at wide receiver.

After trading away D.J. Moore in the deal that brought in the top draft pick, the team could still use some help at wide receiver. The Panthers currently roster Terrace Marshall, Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault as their top receiving options behind Thielen. All are serviceable, especially with Thielen now in the group, but Carolina is still interested in adding another name. They recently hosted DJ Chark and would very much like to reunite him with Shenault, his former Jaguars teammate.

Regardless of whether or not they can pair Chark with Thielen, the Panthers have a new No. 1 receiver in Thielen. After years behind Stefon Diggs and Jefferson in Minnesota, Thielen will finally get a chance to be a top receiving option in Carolina.

Panthers To Host WR Adam Thielen

The Panthers’ wide receiver situation has gone through major changes over the past few months. Most recently, the team sent D.J. Moore to the Bears in a package for the No. 1 overall pick. This leaves Carolina with a significant need at receiver.

Carolina is planning to host Adam Thielen on a free agency visit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Recently released by the Vikings, Thielen is slated to trek to Charlotte on Wednesday.

A Minnesota native who also played his college ball in the state, Thielen has only played for the Vikings over the course of his 10-year career. But the Panthers have multiple openings at the position to start Frank Reich’s tenure. The team needed to give up one of the best receivers in franchise history to complete the eight-spot draft climb. With Moore in Chicago, the Panthers will need to supply Andy Dalton and their to-be-determined rookie quarterback with more aerial support.

Although Thielen is 32, he still displayed the capabilities of being a complementary target last season. Opposite Justin Jefferson, the red zone threat caught 70 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers are in line with Thielen’s 2021 work, which included 10 touchdowns. During the 2020s, Thielen has totaled an eye-opening 30 receiving scores. That total ranks fifth this decade, with Thielen behind only perennial Pro Bowlers Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

The Panthers still have Terrace Marshall (490 receiving yards last season) on their roster, and Matt Rhule-era trade acquisition Laviska Shenault is going into a contract year. Both former second-rounders could be part of Reich’s attack, but the Panthers will likely be on the hunt for help in the draft in addition to their interest in free agent targets. Jakobi Meyers and Allen Lazard are off the board, but several wideouts — including Thielen, Mecole Hardman, Darius Slayton and DJ Chark — remain available for the retooling team.

Vikings To Release WR Adam Thielen

MARCH 10: The Vikings are moving forward with this transaction. They will cut Thielen, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets. Rather than adjust his contract, the 10-year veteran will take his chances on the market. It is not known yet if the Vikings are using the post-June 1 designation.

MARCH 9: Adam Thielen has been with the Vikings since catching on as a tryout body during the 2013 offseason, but the Minnesota native’s time with the team may be nearly up. The Vikings are considering a Thielen release, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The 10-year Viking has been in talks with the team about a restructure this offseason, and Schefter notes more discussions are on tap. But a release is a real possibility here. The Vikings could save more than $13MM in cap space by designating Thielen a post-June 1 cut. A standard release would leave the team with $13MM-plus in dead money while only creating $6.4MM in cap space. The Vikings are $15MM over the cap as of Thursday morning.

This would be an interesting development for Thielen, who would be landing in a mediocre wide receiver market were he to be released. Justin Jefferson‘s rapid rise has overshadowed the longtime Viking cog, but Thielen still totaled 70 receptions for 716 yards and six touchdowns last season. Thielen has remained a go-to player in the red zone for Kirk Cousins, having caught 30 touchdown passes since Jefferson’s 2020 arrival.

The Division II product is, however, on the back nine of his career. Thielen will turn 33 in August. He has said he wants to finish his career with his home-state team, but if that proves impossible, a role elsewhere as a complementary target would seemingly be available to him.

Thielen has signed two extensions with the Vikings. His most recent deal — a three-year, $44.7MM re-up — runs through the 2024 season. That contract calls for Thielen to carry the second-largest cap hit on the Vikes’ 2023 payroll ($19.97MM); a March 2022 restructure inflated Thielen’s 2023 cap figure.

The Vikings are preparing for a Jefferson extension. Although the team can table that landmark deal until 2024, as Jefferson can be kept on his rookie deal for two more seasons thanks to the soon-to-be-exercised fifth-year option, GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has openly discussed this extension. Preliminary talks have taken place. The Vikings also have found another solid Jefferson complementary piece in K.J. Osborn, who has reached the 650-yard plateau in each of the past two seasons despite Thielen’s presence as the team’s No. 2 wideout.

With the Vikings before even Stefon Diggs‘ arrival, Thielen has 55 career TD catches — third in team history behind Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Thielen’s 6,682 receiving yards trail only Cris Carter, Moss and Anthony Carter in Vikings annals. Thielen’s 14 TD grabs in 2020 were the most by a Viking since Moss’ franchise-record 17 in 2003.

Vikings’ Za’Darius Smith Seeking Release

With the new league year approaching, all teams must reach cap compliance in the coming days. The Vikings are one of several teams with work left to do to accomplish that goal, though one veteran’s intentions would see them clear a significant amount of cap space if they were to be honored.

Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith wants to be released by Minnesota, as suggested by a tweet sent on Thursday. In it, he appears to send a farewell message to his teammates, fans and members of the organization. As Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes (on Twitter), Smith sold his house earlier this year amidst the expectation that he would be playing elsewhere in 2023.

Goessling and others report, however, that the Vikings currently have no intention of cutting the 30-year-old. Smith has two years remaining on his contract, a three-year, $42MM pact signed after he was released by the Packers. That made him a free agent for the second time in his career, allowing him to net another lucrative pact on the open market.

Smith previously appeared to have a deal in place with the Ravens, with whom he spent the first four years of his career. After terms seemed to be agreed upon, it was learned that he was moving in another direction, which opened up his intra-divisional move to the Vikings. The former fourth-rounder had a highly productive debut season in Minnesota, racking up 10 sacks, 37 pressures and one forced fumble. Those figures helped earn him a third career Pro Bowl nod.

Smith is due $32.5MM over the next two years, but none of his base salaries are guaranteed for 2023 or 2024. That would yield the Vikings cap savings of $12.2MM and $20MM, respectively, in those years, figures which would be of great importance to a team in their current financial situation. Minnesota is currently almost $16MM over the cap, and facing increased urgency to make cost-cutting moves with the start of free agency (March 15) around the corner.

That could force them to release wideout Adam Thielen (or at least restructure his current contract). Developments on that front will likely be coming soon, as they will in Smith’s case as well, as the NFC North champions look to keep as many 2022 contributors in the fold as possible while dealing with their cap constraints.

WR Adam Thielen Facing Contract Restructure, Wants To Remain With Vikings

The Vikings are not in an enviable position with respect to cap space as the new league year approaches, meaning the team will need to make a number of financial moves in the near future. One of those is likely to involve one of their longest-tenured contributors.

Wideout Adam Thielen once again faces the probability of having to restructure his contract. The 32-year-old has two years remaining on his current pact, and is scheduled to have a cap hit of just under $20MM in 2023. Thielen re-worked his deal last March, in a move which saw Minnesota gain much-needed cap space but has his $11.8MM salary for this season set to become fully guaranteed just after the new league year. Barring further maneuvering, then, he could be considered a cut candidate.

When speaking about his financial situation on the Pat McAfee Show, Thielen acknowledged that talks have begun with the Vikings regarding a new restructure (video link). The two-time Pro Bowler is due more than $30MM over the course of the next two seasons, though Minnesota will once again have the option of converting a significant portion of his base salary into bonuses. A post-June 1 release in particular, on the other hand, would give the NFC North champions eight-figure cap savings in both 2023 and 2024.

When speaking about his uncertain future, Thielen made it clear, however, that he intends to re-work his deal as a result of his desire to remain with the Vikings. The former UDFA has played each of his 135 career games with Minnesota, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark twice. His yardage totals have dipped in recent years, as fellow receiver (and 2022 Offensive Player of the Year) Justin Jefferson has enjoyed an historic start to his career. Thielen has still proven himself to be a reliable redzone contributor, though, totaling 30 touchdowns in the past three campaigns.

“I want to be able to help a team and show… I can play at a high level to help them win,” Thielen added, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter). “Will that be in Minnesota? I don’t know. I hope so. I hope to retire a Minnesota Viking… Will that happen? I don’t know. This is also a business.”

Thielen and the Vikings have a few weeks to work out an agreement which lowers his cap hit while ensuring he remains in Minnesota for at least the short-term future. Failing that, he would no doubt generate a considerable market for himself as a free agent.

Vikings Restructure Adam Thielen’s Deal

Adam Thielen is staying put. On Friday, the wide receiver agreed to restructure his deal in order to remain with the Vikings, according to a tweet from his agency.

The Vikings entered the offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the league and Thielen was viewed as a potential cap casualty. The two-time Pro Bowler was set to carry a $16.8MM cap hit this year. The Vikings could have released him to save $5.7MM against $11.1MM in dead money, or spread that dead money hit over the next two seasons via the post-June 1 designation. Ultimately, the Vikings wanted to keep the wide receiver – they just needed a little bit of cooperation on his part.

Thielen, 32 in August, registered 67 receptions for 726 yards and ten touchdowns in just 13 games last year. While it was a solid showing, it was something of a down year by his standards. Between his 2017 and 2018 Pro Bowl campaigns, Thielen averaged upwards of 1,300 yards per slate.

Thielen’s restructured contract includes $18MM guaranteed with a raise to $14.4MM in 2022 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Meanwhile, for salary cap purposes, a void year has been added to the deal.

While Thielen is staying in Minnesota, the same can’t be said for cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

Vikings Extend QB Kirk Cousins Through 2023

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wanted a chance to build an offense around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Well, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, he will get his chance as the Vikings will sign Cousins to a one-year, $35MM extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 NFL season. 

The Vikings reportedly had been receiving calls on Cousins, but the new coaching staff and general manager are declaring their commitment to the veteran quarterback and gaining some much needed cap space in the process.

Cousins’ scheduled cap hit for 2022 was set to be the largest in NFL history at $45MM. The extension reduces his 2022 cap number to $31.42MM, granting Minnesota a little over $13.5MM in cap space. In addition, Cousins will see a raise, making $40MM this season and $30MM in 2023. The deal includes phantom, voidable years in 2024 & 2025 that allow them to reduce the cap hits in ’22 and ’23.

Say what you will about Cousins pay and performance, but after receiving two consecutive franchise tags in Washington, a three-year fully-guaranteed contract to join the Vikings, and two fully-guaranteed extensions to stay in Minnesota, Cousins has secured eight-straight seasons of guaranteed contracts.

There are expectations for Cousins to thrive under O’Connell. With offensive weapons like running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. all returning, the familiarity of personnel should make up for the new playbook. The bookends of the offensive line seem set with Christian Darrisaw showing promise after a delayed debut and Brian O’Neill making the Pro Bowl last year. There are some questions to be answered on the interior of the line, but the pieces, for the most part, are there.

The onus will now be on the coaching staff and front office to make offseason improvements to a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Vikings defense allowed the third-most yards in the league and the ninth-most points. If the new leaders in Minnesota can turn around that unit, look for Minnesota to make a play for a playoff spot and potentially even challenge the perennial NFC North power from Green Bay for the division.