The Minnesota Vikings released receiver Adam Thielen on Friday, concluding a storied tenure for the Minnesotan who captured the hearts of fans throughout the region.
Born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and having played collegiately at Minnesota State Mankato, Thielen signed with the team in 2013 after serving as a tryout player at rookie minicamp. By the end of the 2022 season, he had more career catches (534) than any player in team history other than Cris Carter and Randy Moss, both of whom are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"To go from a kid growing up in Detroit Lakes to playing for the Minnesota Vikings has been a journey beyond what I could have dreamed of," Thielen said in an Instagram post. "I want to thank everyone within the Vikings organization -- coaches, teammates, the Wilf family and fans -- for all the love and support I have received over the years. I poured everything I had into these last 10+ years in presenting and playing for this team and state. My family and I will always cherish them memories we created on and off the field. Minnesota is -- and will always be -- home to us."
"Adam's story is one many know and admire and an incredible example of what a relentless pursuit of a goal can ultimately accomplish," coach Kevin O'Connell said in a statement. "For over a decade, Adam honed his craft to become one of the most well-recognized wide receivers in the NFL. Over that same time, he poured so much of his time into his home state, which made it even more special for him to earn our 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination. I personally leaned on Adam for his work ethic, leadership and counsel multiple times to help get our team where we wanted it to be last season."
But as Thielen approached his 33rd birthday, he began to lose ground to younger players in the Vikings' offense. Over the final five games of last season, he ranked fourth in targets behind Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and K.J. Osborn.
That dynamic, along with a contract that imposed a $19.97 million cap number for 2023, led to Friday's move. The Vikings spoke to him this offseason about a potential contract restructure that would include a pay cut, and it was clear that Thielen would have had a diminished role in their offense moving forward.
Thielen told ESPN last month that he hoped to retire as a Viking. But he added: "I also want my opportunity to show that I can play at a high level."
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah released a statement Friday: "Adam will forever be a part of the Minnesota Vikings family and history. Setting the standard with his play on the field, being a selfless teammate, and making a permanent impact in the community, Adam's influence is significant. We are grateful for everything he brought to the Vikings organization since arriving in 2013, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work with him over the last year. He is the best representation of what the Minnesota Vikings should stand for."
Given the relatively thin free agent market at receiver, he should generate interest from teams that can offer more playing time and targets. By making the move, the Vikings save $6.4 million on the salary cap.
Thielen, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, had 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns last season. He has 6,682 yards and 55 touchdowns in his career.
The Vikings also waived cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. on Friday.
Dantzler had appeared in 35 games (26 starts) for the Vikings over the past three seasons after being selected in the third round of the 2020 draft. He had three career interceptions along with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Cutting Dantzler, who was entering the final season of his rookie deal, will create $2.743 million in cap space for the Vikings.