Vikings Fans Want to Unlock New Era in Minnesota

It wouldn’t be believed if mentioned around this time last year, but Minnesota Vikings fans are ready for a change. The franchise has roster needs at cornerback, off-ball linebacker, interior defensive line, and wide receiver. Of course, no Vikings enthusiast anywhere wants to lose Justin Jefferson.

But his running mate is evidently a different story.

Vikings Fans Want to Unlock New Era in Minnesota

We polled Vikings fans on Twitter last week, asking thousands of folks about their preference for WR2 in 2023.

Vikings Fans Want
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

And almost unbelievably, retaining Mr. Minnesota, Adam Thielen, at WR2 was a fringe opinion, with an overwhelming majority ready to seek the next guy at the position. Just 11.1% of respondents want Thielen back in the same role he’s inhabited since 2016.

The poll was unscientific, and 4,791 people opined.

Thielen is slated to inflict a $19.9 million cap hit against the Vikings salary cap in 2023, and that is apparently too rich for fans’ blood. The 32-year-old appeared to “slow down” a bit in 2022, or if that was not the case, the new Kevin O’Connell-led offense didn’t know how to use Thielen effectively — which would seem odd.

PFF Sends Vikings Help
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) scores a touchdown in front of Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (34) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Thielen said about his future 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.”

Later the same day, Thielen told The Pat McAfee Show, “We’re working through some stuff because I have a big cap hit […] They’re gonna try to do something, but we’ll see.”

So, fans are firmly embedded in “what will they do with Thielen?” discussions, as the Vikings and Thielen are contemplating the same predicament. Surprisingly, onlookers of the team — 30.6% of them — would be content auditioning K.J. Osborn, Jalen Reagor, or Jalen Nailor for the WR2 job, a percentage that lapped the Thielen preference nearly threefold.

one vikings playmaker
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates his touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Responding to the poll, Twitter user @BrigadeIf commented, “I think Osborn deserves a shot at WR2. Draft a late-round WR and have Osborn, Nailor, and the rookie compete for WR2 and WR3. Oh, and 2 UDFAs, WR and WR/ST. Start looking for the next Theilen.”

Twitter user @FettDoba opined, “In my opinion, since Hockenson is likely going to be the 2nd leading receiver, go with a speedy guy who can stretch the defense and pull people away from JJ. KJ and Adam both have strengths in finding soft spots in the coverage, not really stretching coverage. We’ll see what happens.”

@DateoJr responded, “We have a very good receiving group. Just need to shore up the O line. Also use Cook, and Mattison out of the backfield. They both can catch and run very well. Use Ham more on short runs.”

No Love for Kevin
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If the Vikings agree and opt not to retain Thielen as the 2023 WR2 and don’t consider Osborn, Reagor, or Nailor realistic options, free agency provides only a few interesting names. Nelson Agholor, DJ Chark, Allen Lazard, Jakobi Meyers, and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be available to the highest bidder, but it is unclear if Minnesota will consider those men upgrades over Thielen.

Otherwise, the Vikings have the No. 23 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and could explore drafting a talent like Jordan Addison (USC), Zay Flowers (Boston College), or Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State).

Thielen’s contract resolution will be determined by March 16th.

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