This Could Be the End of the Road for Vikings Lifer

Team in Football per
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrate the win against the New England Patriots after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

One of the sorrowful byproducts of a premature playoff exit — especially for a 13-win team — is change. The Minnesota Vikings overachieved in the 2022 regular season, convincing the team’s fans that winning close games superseded conventional playoff-legitimacy logic. Folks were tricked into believing the Vikings were Super Bowl contenders, but the squad was really just a “survive and advance” regular season club with no legitimate spine to make noise in the playoffs.

The proof? Minnesota lost to the New York Giants on Sunday, a team devoid of monstrous roster talent but with a bevy of hunger and upstart momentum. The 13-win team was defeated at home by the nine-win 3rd-place finisher from the NFC East. Not a good look.

This Could Be the End of the Road for Vikings Lifer

So, what now?

Well, a handful of Vikings veterans, particularly ones with large 2023 cap hits, will be targeted for release, pay cut, or trade. And one of those men is Vikings lifer Adam Thielen.

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

Indeed, amid the disappointment of the Vikings first-round exit last weekend, fans may have watched Thielen’s last game — with the Vikings or in the NFL. Thielen’s wife, Caitlin, appeared to post this to Instagram after the loss with a caption, “And just like that, the season and our time here in MN might be at an end. Super proud of your attitude this season and always fighting.”

Thielen, 32, tabulated 70 receptions for 716 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2022. Those numbers are impressive on the whole but pale in comparison to Thielen’s production from 2018 or 2020. As a WR2, Thielen seemed to “slow down” in contrast to his performance of yesteryear. Additionally, Thielen is slated to incur a $20 million cap hit against the Vikings books in 2023.

a pretty picture
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Adam Thielen and Minnesota Vikings players celebrate the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Too, with the NFL emphatically taking notice of teammate Justin Jefferson’s otherworldly talent, teams will continue to promote double coverage on the Vikings WR1, meaning a youthful and complementary WR2 is likely required. Thielen filled the WR2 role — and even the WR1 role in some games — tremendously from 2016 to 2021, but those days may be over.

Heading into the 2023 offseason, Thielen’s future was already a hot topic for conversation. It’s the “way it goes” for wide receivers in their 30s.

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

And with Thielen’s family openly acknowledging the end in Minnesota, now is an apropos time to accept the Minnesota-everything-for-life legend could’ve scripted his final chapter with the club in 2022.

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).