3 Ways Adam Thielen Can Return to the Vikings

Adam Thielen
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Thielen talks and acts like an existing player on the Minnesota Vikings’ roster.

3 Ways Adam Thielen Can Return to the Vikings

He recently worked out with new Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy in Minnesota — and sang the young man’s praises thereafter.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“I’m sure we’ll get a few more sessions in before heading back to training camp,” Thielen said on KFAN this week.

“I mean, he’s got all the tools, that’s for sure. I mean, he can he can swing it. He’s super accurate. You know, we’re in shorts and t-shirts out there. But yeah, you can see a lot just from accuracy, timing, and those kinds of things when you’re when you’re running around out there. He’s got a maturity about him that you can tell that goes beyond his age. And, you know, that’s step number one as a QB, right, to have that maturity level, to have that kind of poise or kind of that aura around you that, you know, just feels like confidence and just a good good person,” he added.

Of course, because Vikings fans eternally love Thielen, VikingsTerritory has received multiple inquiries about Thielen’s would-be return to Minnesota — and if that’s feasible at all.

Here’s how it could happen.

1. A Trade

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports.

How It Would Work:
Vikings send a late-round pick — probably a conditional 6th- or 7th-Rounder — to Carolina while the Panthers eat about $7 million in dead cap.

Why would the Panthers trade Thielen? Simple — they have two new wide receivers in the house who weren’t around in 2023, presumably lessening Thielen’s workload. Those men are Diontae Johnson and Xavier Lagette.

Per long-term outlook, Thielen went from the Panthers’ WR1 to WR3 in a single offseason. These wide receivers, among others, live on the Panthers’ depth chart next to Thielen:

  • Diontae Johnson
  • Xavier Lagette
  • Terrace Marshall Jr.
  • Jonathan Mingo
  • Ihmir Smith-Marsette

Perhaps Carolina would be open to sending Thielen home, leaning fully into a new era.

It’s worth noting that this trade could be on the table, too, during the season if Carolina’s win-loss record stumbled out of the gate and Minnesota performed better than most expect. The NFL trade deadline is November 5th — Election Day.

2. Outright Release by Panthers

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

How It Would Work:
The aforementioned wideouts steal Thielen’s job, as determined by Carolina’s coaching staff, and he hits the open market in late August. The Panthers would swallow about $13 million in dead cap.

Similar to the trade theory above, Carolina decides to pursue youth on offense, leaving Thielen, who will turn 34 in August, as the odd man out.

The Vikings famously have an open WR3 job at the moment, a battle on deck between Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor, and possibly Trent Sherfield. Thielen, on paper, might be absolutely perfect for the assignment. When he left Minnesota 16 months ago, Minnesota desired a new WR2 — Jordan Addison. Thielen as WR3 is a different ball of wax, an enticing one.

3. The 2025 Method

Adam Thielen Claps Back
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How It Would Work:
The Panthers squeeze their investment for one more season — the most likely outcome on this list — but cut ties after 2024. Carolina would be on the hook for roughly $5 million in dead cap, a stomachable figure for a team heading in a new direction.

Minnesota would determine if a soon-to-be 35-year-old (next spring/summer) Thielen still had the juice for WR3, and a reunion would be on the way. The Minnesota State alumnus would basically be dropped into free agency like any other player, and the Vikings could sign him for cheap and allow Thielen to retire at home.

Of course, this is the only method requiring patience and no 2024 agreement.

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 MIN obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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