With the NFL free agency period set to begin on the ninth of this month, the most important free agent that the Vikings have on offense is wide receiver and special teams guru Adam Thielen. Thielen, who has been a special teams stud since walking onto the team in 2013, came into his own as a wide receiver last season, nearly eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving as he emerged as one of quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite targets. Luckily for the Vikings, who really cannot afford to lose a wide receiver right now, Thielen is a restricted free agent, meaning that they can “Tender” him (Which sounds like something that kids in high school do after Prom, but in reality means that it’d make the process of acquiring him as a team other than the Vikings painful and beneficial to the Vikes).
According to a recent Tweet by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, while the Vikings will at the bare minimum add a tender to Thielen, they are also looking to sign him to a long term deal as well. So, first, what is a tender, you ask? Well, it depends on what type of tender, but in the case of Thielen and his second round tender, essentially the Vikings would pay Thielen $2.8 million for the 2017 season (Which is a steal). In addition, if another team wants to sign Thielen while he’s tendered the Vikings would have the right of last refusal (Meaning that they could also offer the same contract to Thielen). On top of that, if Thielen rejected the Vikings matched deal and ended up on another team, the Vikings would receive a second round pick from whichever team Thielen did end up signed with. If you want to hear more about this, in-depth, check out our Podcast from Saturday where Luke Braun and I break this down…
On our Podcast I do say that I personally believe that a receiver of Thielen’s quality is worth a second round pick, at least most years. However, there are some big name free agents available this off-season that don’t require a draft pick, mostly thanks to the Bears (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey), so I doubt anyone will end up stealing Thielen either way. So, while it does make the most sense to lock up Thielen for the long-term if you’re the Vikings, his sub-three million dollar deal for 2017 is extremely cap friendly and could help the Vikes lock in more big named offensive lineman, even if it’s for a season or two (Or however long they believe their window of opportunity is).
As I stated above, though, the Vikings really can’t afford to lose Thielen (and Jarius Wright) right now as outside of Stefon Diggs the Vikings don’t have a lot of (or any) proven players at the position. I know you’re all thinking of Cordarrelle Patterson, but the feeling is that he will probably end up playing for another team in 2017 as he’s a free agent right now, as well. Assuming Patterson does end up elsewhere, the Vikings would also have Jarius Wright under contract, but considering the fact that he asked for “Clarity” on his contract/role on the team last month, he may not end up on the team in 2017 either. That’d leave underwhelming rookie Laquon Treadwell as a top three guy and considering his struggles (and Stefon Diggs’ propensity to miss a game or two each season with injury) in 2016, that’s semi-frightening.
So, there’s no reason to panic, by any means, but if anything the Thielen situation shows that the Vikings aren’t very deep at the wide receiver position. So, it’s relieving to know that Thielen will be on the team regardless in 2017. But after that, they may need to look at adding another player. However, if that really is the case, this off-season would probably be the best time to do it, because as I stated above, the free agency market is pretty ripe. While Brandon Marshall is 33 years old, he’s only one season removed from a 1,500 yard campaign he’s the type of big bodied, down the field guy that the Vikings are lacking right now, so while spending money on a player like Marshall or Alshon Jeffrey (Who would be a huge get, if he can stay healthy) isn’t a top priority, it could help bring some relief to an offense that suddenly finds itself without many play-makers now that Adrian Peterson is set to test the free agency market himself.