What is the Vikings 2021 Offseason Plan for Adam Thielen?
When the 2020 season quickly became unfriendly to the Minnesota Vikings, trade rumors aplenty circulated, affecting nearly every player on the roster – even the ones viewed as untouchable.
Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith, and Danielle Hunter all graced the hearsay-infused trade talks. Unsurprisingly, the rumors did not materialize as everyone not named Yannick Ngakoue stayed put. Ngakoue – who played for the Vikings for seven weeks – was shipped to the Baltimore Ravens for a 3rd-Round draft pick.
Adam Thielen was also whispered about during the fire-sale hubbub. At 30 years old, Thielen is approaching the age when he either begins a subtle decline of aptitudes or emulates Larry Fitzgerald and plays forever.
A performance-related decline was not on the docket for Thielen in 2020. Alongside rookie Justin Jefferson, Thielen snatched nearly 1,000 receiving yards and a career-high 14 touchdowns. Had Thielen been targeted like DeAndre Hopkins or Stefon Diggs, he would have grabbed north of 20 touchdowns – which is near Randy Moss’ NFL record (23) from 2007.
But the Vikings 2020 offseason will embrace some elements of change. The team already has new offensive, special teams, and defensive back coordinators. Difficult decisions on the futures of Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Harris, and Riley Reiff loom.
What about Thielen? Well, he likely escapes any topsy-turvy contractual business altogether, and here’s why.
35th-Best Player in the NFL for 2020
Adam Thielen is no longer underrated or underappreciated. This beset him until 2018 or so, but now he is perceived nationally as a formidable, reliable pass-catcher.
Pro Football Focus decided Thielen was the 35th-best player in the league during 2020. 1,696 active players participate in games on a regular NFL Sunday, and that makes Thielen’s ranking a big deal.
On Thielen, PFF’s Sam Monson commented:
“With Justin Jefferson putting together the kind of season he did as a rookie in Minnesota, it’s easy to overlook Adam Thielen or miss the fact that he had 14 receiving touchdowns this season. Thielen caught just under 70% of passes thrown his way and generated a 120.5 passer rating for Kirk Cousins on his targets. He remains one of the best route-runners in the game and is capable of spectacular plays at the catch point, as well. Thielen may not have had a career year in receptions or yards, but he was outstanding on the chances he got.”
High praise for the Minnesota State alumnus. It’s respect like this that deems it unlikely the Vikings would trade Thielen or fundamentally restructure his contract. Put simply – Thielen is considered the NFL’s sixth-best wide receiver by PFF. Why the hell would Minnesota want to remove that caliber of player from its orbit? Particularly in a league that trends more pass-happy each season.
League’s 11th-Highest Paid WR
Equal pay for equal work: That is Adam Thielen described in a nutshell. His yardage output tailed off a tad as Justin Jefferson fiercely emerged last season. Minnesota does not throw the football as much as other franchises, so Jefferson and Thielen spilt the targets. And Jefferson got a bit more attention.
Not in the redzone, though. Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill were the only two wide receivers to score more touchdowns than Thielen in 2020. At age 30, Thielen’s knack for scoring is increasing – which bodes tremendously well for the remainder of his career. Should he morph into a touchdown-heavy guy on an annual basis, well, he can play until his late-30s.
Thielen developed his prowess for scoring in 2018, and it was not an outlier. Since 2018, he has scored 29 touchdowns while missing 15% of games. Behind Adams and Hill, Thielen ranks third in receiving touchdowns-scored during the last three seasons (when Kirk Cousins arrived in Minneapolis).
The seven-year Vikings veteran is the 11th-highest-paid wideout leaguewide per average annual salary ($16.2 million). One would be hard-pressed to find a fairer salary ranking for Thielen. He is roughly in the ballpark for 10th or 11th-best wideout in the NFL and thus compensated accordingly. Simple as that.
A Lovable Dude That Stays Put
Thielen’s contract and employment will remain as-is because he deserves it. Statistical output and on-the-field consistency affirm his monetary value is equitable.
Plus, he is a fan-favorite – beyond the shadow of a doubt. Can you imagine Thielen wearing a helmet that does not have white horns? Take a minute to envision that. It is foreign.
Several areas for contractual tweaking will be evaluated roster-wide during the coming months. Based on value and production, Thielen should enter 2021 with his contract untouched.