Is it time for the Vikings to consider trading Adam Thielen?

With his cap hit expected to jump, could Adam Thielen become a trade asset as the Minnesota Vikings possibly rebuild?

While the ‘new-look’ Minnesota Vikings continue to travel down a new path, the biggest unanswered questions remain focused on who will actually play for the team next season.

As it stands, the Vikings are more than $16-million over the salary cap, several high-profile athletes are set to begin negotiating new contracts, and there isn’t much room to work with to address the team’s current deficiencies.

Minnesota’s new leadership team, headlined by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell, will definitely need to make some difficult decisions as they reshape the roster to fit their vision of a championship contender.

One of those difficult decisions could see the Twin Cities lose a hometown hero.

Entering his ninth NFL season, Adam Thielen remains one of the most regarded wide receivers in the game today. The 32-year-old Minnesota native has proven to be one of the league’s most productive wideouts every time he’s on the field.

He has also played an important role in allowing other receivers on the Vikings’ roster to capitalize on his presence and put up excellent receiving performances of their own.

However, the Vikings have benefitted from a team-friendly contract and an impressive stretch of elite play from the lifelong Minnesotan. That time is coming to an end.

Why Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen could be traded in 2022

From 2016 to 2021, Thielen put up more than 5,600 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns on 444 receptions. During that time, the most productive period of his career, he never made more than $5-million in a single year from his deals with the Vikings.

Thielen is now on the decline, and he is expected to carry a cap hit of nearly $17 million in the 2022 season. That is currently Minnesota’s third-highest cap hit for 2022 behind Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins.

Now his spot with the team could be saved by offloading one of those contracts onto another team. But that move would leave the Vikings without a leader at the most important positions in the game.

A Hunter loss would leave Minnesota without a single premier pass-rusher. On the flip side, solving the quarterback situation would be highly challenging for the Vikings’ new coaching staff, which believes the team has what it takes to become a Super Bowl contender.

Losing Thielen, while uncomfortable and heartbreaking, would be the better option for several reasons. The remaining young talents at the position, Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn, have demonstrated they can handle any tasks assigned to them.

Thielen has started to show some wear after suffering several lower-body injuries in recent years. Minnesota tight end Tyler Conklin helped the offense move the chains last season and Irv Smith Jr. will return to the team next season. There are several quality passing options available outside of Thielen.

Acquiring a cheaper replacement, whether it be in free agency, the draft, or through a trade, would very likely not be the answer to replacing Thielen’s productivity. What he brings to the Vikings is coveted by all 32 NFL teams.

However, the Vikings’ old way of running a team didn’t work, and it’s time to try something new. That was made clear before the season concluded.

With that being said, there is a really good chance Thielen doesn’t get moved. He’s a fan favorite, and he’s entering only the second year of his four-year contract worth a little more than $65 million.

Plus, there probably aren’t many Vikings fans or alumni who want their hometown hero to play anywhere else. It will be interesting to see what the Vikings will do to improve the team ahead of next season.

(Potential free agent WR replacements if Thielen is moved: Allen Robinson, Will Fuller V, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Christian Kirk, Jakobi Meyers.)