WR Market a Doozy for Vikings Free Agent Plans

NFC Rivals Could Play Spoiler to Ideal Vikings Draft Scenario
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah the team's year-end press conference for the 2022 season after losing to the New York Giants in the playoffs.

While the Minnesota Vikings hash out an elephantine contract extension with wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the franchise might need a new running mate for the 23-year-old.

The Vikings released Adam Thielen after 10 years of service last week, creating a roster need to fill in free agency or the 2023 NFL Draft.

WR Market a Doozy for Vikings Free Agent Plans

And if the WR2 plan involves free agency, well, the options are shrinking. Using free agency for a Thielen replacement was never a guaranteed plan, but if it was one of the internal realistic options, Minnesota better get cooking.

WR Market a Doozy
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

JuJu Smith-Schuter joined the New England Patriots on Wednesday, the latest decent WR2 candidate snatched around the NFL. So far, in 2.5 days of free agency, these men have ventured elsewhere:

  • Noah Brown (Cowboys to Texans)
  • Deonte Harty (Saints to Bills)
  • Allen Lazard (Packers to Jets)
  • Jakobi Meyers (Patriots to Raiders)
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (Chiefs to Patriots)
  • Robert Woods (Titans to Texans)
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports.

And the potential WRs left on the market? That’s a slender bunch:

  • Nelson Agholor (Patriots)
  • Chosen Anderson (Cardinals)
  • Odell Beckham (Rams)
  • Parris Campbell (Colts)
  • D.J. Chark (Lions)
  • Mecole Hardman (Chiefs)
  • N’Keal Harry (Patriots)
  • Julio Jones (Buccanneers)
  • Jarvis Landry (Saints)
  • Darius Slayton (Giants)

The list is slender because Chark, Beckham, and arguably Hardman + Slayton are the only names with true WR2 DNA. The rest are guys who could thrive in the Vikings offense as a WR2, but they’re maybes.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

Otherwise, Minnesota can pursue a fan-endorsed plan — using the 1st Round of the NFL draft to find the “new Thielen.” Vikings fans adore when the team drafts WRs with early-round draft capital, mainly because it’s one thing the club does really, really well. Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, and Justin Jefferson can tell you all about it. If the general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah fancies the idea, at least 1-3 of these men will likely be available with the No. 23 pick currently held by Minnesota:

  • Jordan Addison (USC)
  • Zay Flowers (Boston College)
  • Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee)
  • Quentin Johnston (TCU)
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch.

Finally, the fallback plan is “doing nothing.” Kevin O’Connell’s offense can lean even heavier into T.J. Hockenson as TE target hog, audition K.J. Osborn as WR2 — and let it ride. That doesn’t seem like the probable plan for O’Connell’s pass-happy offense, but stranger things have happened.

All in all, if free agency is the Vikings spot for life after Thielen, the clock is ticking.

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.