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.
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.
The Vikings are looking to reset their cap, and their quarterback could end up being a casualty. According to Jason La Canfora (via Twitter), the Vikings are “eager to move big contracts,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up moving on from Kirk Cousins.
With the Vikings changing regimes, the status of their four-year starting quarterback has understandably come up. Cousins carries the NFL’s third-highest 2022 cap hit at $45MM, and he’s going into a contract year. If the organization is truly looking to reset their books, it’d make sense to move on from the veteran QB. It would help the Vikings a bit if Cousins agreed to another extension, which would allow the team to reduce his 2022 cap hit. However, Cousins’ camp hasn’t been receptive to that idea.
The Vikings entered the offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the NFL, so it’s not surprising that the team is looking to move around some money. Per OverTheCap.com, the Vikings are currently $15MM over the cap, so moves are certainly coming.
This operation will almost certainly knock Thielen out for the remainder of the season. A roughly one-month recovery timetable comes with this procedure, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Barring a lengthy playoff run, the 31-year-old wideout will resurface next season. The Vikings placed Thielen on IR, knocking him out for at least three games.
Thielen suffered a high ankle sprain earlier this month. While he attempted to return, he left Sunday’s game in considerable pain. That development resulted in a quick decision on a surgical procedure.
Despite Justin Jefferson swiftly becoming one of the NFL’s best receivers, Thielen still leads the Vikings with 10 touchdown catches. The former UDFA has 67 receptions for 726 yards. Thielen played 15 games last season but missed six in 2019 due to injury. The $16.2MM-per-year extension he signed in 2019 runs through 2024.
The Vikings’ loss to the Rams dropped them below .500, at 7-8, and Thielen’s absence will make notching a sweep against the Packers more difficult. Ahead of the Vikes’ trip to Green Bay, FiveThirtyEight.com gives them a 13% chance to make the playoffs. Minnesota will turn to second-year target K.J. Osborn (46 receptions, 584 yards, five TDs) in Thielen’s place alongside Jefferson.
The Vikings will have their starting receiver duo back in action this week. They activated Adam Thielen off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.
Thielen landed on the coronavirus list Nov. 23, and despite no reports indicating the veteran target contracted the virus, the Vikings were without their two-time Pro Bowl pass catcher against the Panthers. But Thielen is set to return to help the Vikes against the Jaguars.
Prior to his stay on the virus list, Thielen had done well to rebound from an injury-marred 2019. After missing the better part of seven games last season, Thielen caught 49 passes for 646 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns through 10 games. Those 11 TDs led the NFL going into Week 12; Tyreek Hill‘s surge in Tampa now has the Chiefs deep threat pacing the league with 13 touchdown grabs.
Backups Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson filled in well against Carolina, combining for 14 receptions in the one-point win. But the Vikings have structured their passing attack around the Thielen-Justin Jefferson duo, as they did around their Thielen-Stefon Diggs tandem for years. Thielen, 30, signed a four-year, $64MM extension in 2019.
One game out of the NFC’s third wild-card spot, the 5-6 Vikings are trying to become the fourth team since the merger to start 1-5 and make the playoffs.
Adam Thielen remains on the Vikings’ reserve/COVID-19 list, and the NFL’s touchdown reception leader is not on track to be activated ahead of Minnesota’s next game.
The Vikings are expected to be without Thielen on Sunday, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). Given the timing of Thielen landing on the Vikes’ coronavirus list (Monday), the veteran wide receiver would have been able to return Sunday — provided he continued to test negative. But this has been one of the vaguer virus situations to emerge.
No Thielen positive coronavirus test has been reported, but should he miss Sunday, he will have been delayed longer than many who have landed on the virus list. Several players have landed on the list early in the week only to be cleared for Sunday games. Thielen missing would obviously weaken the Vikings against the Panthers, though the team can rely on Justin Jefferson and All-Pro candidate Dalvin Cook.
Thielen has caught a career-high 11 touchdown passes, however, and has not missed a game this season. Prior to this COVID-19 issue, the 30-year-old wideout has used the season as a comeback effort of sorts. Thielen missed all or most of seven games last season due to a hamstring injury. The Vikings, though, were prepared to rely on their former tryout-camp find this year after trading Stefon Diggs to the Bills. As was the case last season, the team is thin at wideout beyond its starters. Sunday’s game is obviously critical for the 4-6 team’s last-ditch playoff hopes.
Following one of his best performances of the 2020 campaign, Vikings star wideout Adam Thielen has landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list (per an announcement from the organization).
The team didn’t provide any specific details on Thielen’s status, but we can assume the receiver either tested positive for COVID-19 or was within close contact of someone who did test positive.
The Vikings have recently placed six players on the COVID-19 list, but we know of only two players who definitively tested positive (linebacker Todd Davis and guard Dru Samia). ESPN’s Courtney Cronin observes that wide receivers coach AndrewJanocko wasn’t on the sideline for Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, but there was no explanation for his absence.
The 30-year-old Thielen is having a bounce-back season, hauling in 49 catches for 646 yards and a league-leading 11 touchdowns (including two on Sunday). As Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune writes, the “NFL requires a minimum five-day quarantine for high-risk close contacts and asymptomatic cases.” That means Thielen could be back in the lineup on Sunday against the Panthers.
There are a number of teams that would like to add a wide receiver in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline, and Vikings wideout Adam Thielen would probably pique the interest of all of those clubs. However, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports, Minnesota has no intention of dealing its 30-year-old receiver (Twitter link).
The Vikes are 1-5 and have already sold off one major asset by trading Yannick Ngakoue. They are also willing to deal safety Anthony Harris. However, both Ngakoue and Harris are set to hit free agency at the end of the season, while Thielen is under club control through 2024.
And while Minnesota looks dead in the water this year, there is still enough talent on the roster — including Thielen — to suggest that a rebound in 2021 could be in the cards. If the club plans to retool rather than rebuild, having Thielen in the fold would go a long way towards a return to contention next year.
Thielen and the Vikings agreed to a lucrative four-year extension in April 2019, and though injuries limited him to 10 games last season, he is on track for about 85 catches and over 1,100 receiving yards in 2020. That would be a little off the pace he set in his 2017-18 Pro Bowl campaigns, but those are still respectable numbers, and his 13.0 yards-per-reception average is right in line with his best seasons. He is also currently leading the league with seven TD catches this year.
There’s always a chance the Vikings could be blown away by an offer, especially since Thielen’s salaries throughout his contract are fairly manageable and since it would be easy enough for a team to get out of that contract at any point after the 2020 season is over. It just doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen, and WR-needy teams like the Browns, Ravens, Patriots, and Packers, among others, will need to turn their attention elsewhere (not that Minnesota would ever trade Thielen to Green Bay anyway).
2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.
As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league:
Big names like Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones are not going to be moved, as Rapoport writes in the same piece linked above. The same can be said for Jets QB Sam Darnold(though Darnold could be dealt this offseason). Gang Green may be more open to trading DT Quinnen Williams, but thus far interested teams have only offered a single second-round pick. That will not be enough to convince GM Joe Douglas to trade the talented interior defender.
Another 1-5 outfit, the Texans, also anticipate making a trade or two, per La Canfora. Houston is in desperate need of draft capital, and receivers Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller are coming up in discussions. Sources expect at least one of those players to be moved, and the team is also gauging the market for edge defender Whitney Mercilus.
One team that could have an eye on the Texans’ receivers is the Patriots, who are once again looking for a pass catcher, as La Canfora writes. One year after the team’s ill-fated trade for Mohamed Sanu, New England wants to get a weapon for QB Cam Newton, and Cooks, Fuller, and Thielen could all be options.