The Minnesota Vikings are reportedly thinking that it’s a “real possibility” that veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen could be released in the coming days.
With the new league year approaching on March 15, teams are crunching the numbers to see how they can afford more in free agency while also making sure they stay under the NFL’s salary cap threshold.
Thielen said last month that he knew there was a possibility he becomes a cap casualty; he’s just under a $20 million cap hit for the 2023 campaign and the Vikings are roughly $15 million over the cap as of Thursday. That’s the second-highest on the team, and he’s not the team’s leading receiver anymore.
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That title goes to Justin Jefferson, who is still on his rookie contract and will be a $4.175 million cap hit for this year. Jefferson was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year after a franchise record-setting season with 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns on 128 receptions in Year 3 in Minnesota.
“It’s a little interesting,” Thielen said on “The Pat McAfee Show” in February. “We’re working through some stuff because I’ve got a big cap hit. … My contract fully [guarantees] on, I think, March 16.”
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Thielen restructured his deal with the Vikings last season to allow some cap flexibility, but that led to this number for 2023.
The Vikings would likely designate Thielen a post-June 1 cut, which would only result in $6.55 million in dead money compared to $13.42 million saved to the cap. A pre-June 1 cut would be virtually the opposite for Minnesota.
However, if both sides are publicly saying it won’t work for this season, perhaps a trade could get in the works for the Vikings. Since Jefferson’s emergence as the star receiver for Kirk Cousins to throw to, Thielen’s role with the squad has diminished.
But he still hauled in 70 receptions for 716 yards last season with six touchdowns. He also had 10 touchdowns in 2021, and when Jefferson was just a rookie in 2020, Thielen totaled 925 yards with 14 touchdowns.
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The 32-year-old can still create separation with his exceptional route-running and his hands have not faltered since he broke into the league in 2013 as an undrafted free agent.