Adam Thielen’s New Team — Vikings Fans Shrugged

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The Minnesota Vikings released Adam Thielen on March 10th after ten seasons with the franchise, a depressing move because the man was, quite frankly, Mr. Minnesota.

But his contract was coming home to roost, on deck for a $19.9 million cap hit the franchise could no longer afford. If the WR2 ceiling is 716 yards and 6 touchdowns (Thielen’s 2022 numbers), a rookie on an affordable deal can reasonably replicate the statline.

Adam Thielen’s New Team — Vikings Fans Shrugged

So, this week, Thielen packed his things and ventured southeasterly to the Carolina Panthers. Vikings fans merely shrugged shoulders, and here’s why.

No Significant Rivalry

New Team
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The Vikings play the Panthers every few years, and it’s just another game on the schedule. It has no vibes whatsoever associated with Vikings-Packers, Vikings-Bears, Vikings-Saints, or even Vikings-Eagles. It’s just a game. They’ve never fired up a BountyGate scandal and cheated. Their fans aren’t idiots. And the two teams don’t meet annually.

Of course, the clubs lock horns in 2023 at Carolina, so that’ll be fun for Thielen to get a crack at his old friends. Too, there is a large Vikings following in the Carolinas, making it easier for those folks to adopt the Panthers as their “second team” with Thielen in the house for one to three years.

Yet, Thielen in Carolina establishes no resentment, rivalry, or anything. It’s just a guy on a different team.

Why Not a Contender?

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Vikings fans wanted to live vicariously through Thielen and watch the man nab Super Bowl rings in Buffalo or Kansas City. That ain’t happening unless C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young are Mahomesish right away. That probably ain’t happening either.

Many veterans in Thielen’s boat — about to turn 33 with a decade of NFL experience under their belt — chase rings in situations like this. They’ve made the moolah; now it’s time to pursue shiny ring hardware. Barring Thielen’s knowledge of something the rest of the NFL body politic doesn’t know about, the Panthers likely have stepping-stone years afoot back to contendership. A 7-10 season with Stroud or Young would feel glorious. If Thielen fired up a 7-10 season with any iteration of the Vikings, it’s an utter failure, with talking heads feverishly calling for the quarterback to be traded.

Vikings fans won’t get to watch Thielen in the postseason without an unforeseen and rapid Panthers playoff push with a first-year quarterback.

A Bland Nothingburger

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If the goal is to accumulate stats and money, Thielen picked the right NFL destination. Should he have “a lot left in the tank,” he can indeed put it on display in Charlotte. But who really cares if Thielen fires up 1,100 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns for the 5-12 or 6-11 Panthers?

Nobody. Maybe fantasy football managers?

The Panthers choice doesn’t move the needle for anything, really. In fact, it inspired a “why them?” response from most. It would be like Kevin Garnett joining the Charlotte Bobcats in 2007 instead of the Boston Celtics.

Good for Thielen, though, latching onto an offense where he can be showchased. After all, that’s evidently what he wanted in 2023 from the Vikings; the club just had different plans and a contrasting pricepoint.

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