“I Want to Retire a Viking” from Adam Thielen Is a First Step

The “I Want to Retire a Viking” quote from Adam Thielen this week is a wonderful shots-fired moment for the 32-year-old and the Minnesota Vikings contract talks. Yet, there’s more at play.

Thielen said on ESPN’s First Take Thursday, “I want to retire a Viking. Will that happen? I don’t know. This is also a business. And I also want my opportunity to show that I can play at a high level. So, we’ll see what happens.”

“I Want to Retire a Viking” from Adam Thielen Is a First Step

Later in the day, Thielen spoke with Pat McAfee, also about his contract, and shed more light on the situation. “We’re working through some stuff because I have a big cap hit,” Thielen replied on the show.

I Want to Retire a Viking
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

“They’re gonna try to do something, but we’ll see,” Thielen mentioned about the Vikings prospect of retaining the longtime Viking.

McAfee then asked Thielen if the contract dealings had begun, and Thielen replied, “They have. We’re in the middle of the conversations.”

So, that’s what is known — the Vikings want Thielen back in some capacity, Thielen is open to the idea, and money is the decisive factor. Such discussions are not uncommon with players in February and March.

Game to Help Shape 2023
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Thielen, 32, is scheduled to incur a $19.9 million cap hit against the Vikings books in 2023, a figure thought by some as too expensive for a WR2 who tallied 716 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in 2022. The Minnesota State alumnus was at the peak of his powers in 2018 and has performed admirably since while battling a handful of injuries. He morphed into a touchdown magnet after the 2018 season and became Minnesota’s go-to redzone target after tight end Kyle Rudolph left in 2021.

Sounds encouraging, right? Thielen wants to retire in his home state, and the franchise appears interested in effectuating the plan. Not so fast.

The Vikings might have a Thielen paycut on the brain, and he has every right to say no thanks. This contract is Thielen’s last giant one, and taking a reduction would be silly for his long-term financial planning.

Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) runs after the catch against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

As the contract talks progress, with a mid-March end date when Thielen’s salary guarantees against the books, beware of appearances from both sides. Thielen has already started the media discourse with the “I want to retire a Viking” affirmation. Of course, he does. He’s the King of Minnesota, with a story so grand that it couldn’t be taught in film school. But he wants to retire with the Vikings at his current price tag, in all likelihood. Wouldn’t you?

The Vikings front office, on the other hand, could envision a slimmer price tag — one that is more equitable to his performance on the field. Twenty million bucks against the financial ledger is a lot for 716 receiving yards. It just is. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could spread the cap hit among future years of the Vikings books, but does the team want to glance at dead cap hits in 2026 when Thielen is golfing in retirement? Maybe?

We're One Month Away from Purple Showtime
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) speaks to the press after training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Both sides want this thing to end happily but probably have different avenues and dollar amounts to finish the movie. Thielen shouldn’t take a paycut — because you wouldn’t at your job — and Minnesota shouldn’t overspend at WR2. Something’s gotta give.

Thielen and the Vikings brass, respectively, will seek to promote “their side” of righteousness, almost like a political race. “We offered him this, but he said no.”

Or, “They wanted me to take less money, and I told them I wanted to retire here, but we couldn’t meet in the middle.”

Both parties must look out for themselves, and both parties must look affable along the way.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.