Adam Thielen's time with the Minnesota Vikings ended after nine seasons (2014-2022), and he has finalized a second act with the Carolina Panthers, agreeing to terms on a deal, the team announced. The soon-to-be 33-year-old's arrival in Charlotte comes on the heels of the Panthers former top wide receiver D.J. Moore's departure to the Chicago Bears as part of the package sent to acquire the NFL Draft's top overall pick. Thielen shared his excitement about his new home by posting an Instagram story of his children celebrating the new deal.
Thielen's deal is for three years, via NFL Media. He becomes the grown-up in Carolina's wide receiver room as the team's other projected starters Terrace Marshall Jr. (22 years old), Laviska Shenault Jr. (24 years old), and Shi Smith (24 years old) are all under the age of 25. The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver's presence, along with three-time Pro Bowl veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, should help accelerate the growth of whichever quarterback the Panthers select between Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young, Florida's Anthony Richardson, and Kentucky's Will Levis.
The Vikings released Thielen in order to open up salary cap space ahead of the start of the new league year, which occurred on March 15. Prior to Thielen's release, Minnesota was nearly $15 million over the cap, according to Spotrac. By moving off of Thielen, who had a cap hit of $19.967,647 million for the 2023 season, the Vikings freed up $6.4 million in space.
"Adam will forever be a part of the Minnesota Vikings family and history," GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement released by the team. "Setting the standard with his play on the field, being a selfless teammate, and making a permanent impact in the community, Adam's influence is significant. We are grateful for everything he brought to the Vikings organization since arriving in 2013, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work with him over the last year. He is the best representation of what the Minnesota Vikings should stand for. I wish nothing but the best for Adam, Caitlin and their entire family."
A former undrafted rookie, Thielen has been an extremely productive and consistent player for the majority of his career. A backup during his first two seasons, Thielen was elevated into the Vikings' starting lineup ahead of the 2015 season. He nearly topped 1,000 yards that season before catching 91 passes for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns the following season. Thielen put up career highs with 113 receptions and 1,373 yards in 2017 while helping the Vikings reach the NFC title game.
While his receiving yards have dipped, Thielen continues to have a nose for the end zone. He caught a career-high 14 touchdowns in 2020. He caught 10 touchdowns in 2021 and six touchdowns last season.
"Adam's story is one many know and admire and an incredible example of what a relentless pursuit of a goal can ultimately accomplish," said head coach Kevin O'Connell in a statement. "For over a decade, Adam honed his craft to become one of the most well-recognized wide receivers in the NFL. Over that same time, he poured so much of his time into his home state, which made it even more special for him to earn our 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination. I personally leaned on Adam for his work ethic, leadership and counsel multiple times to help get our team where we wanted it to be last season. I appreciate Adam's contributions and will be pulling for continued success for him, Caitlin and their children."
After helping mentor wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who evolved from a first round pick in 2020 (22nd overall) into the 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Thielen's newest pupil will be a first overall pick quarterback.