Adam Thielen headed to Panthers on 3-year deal, source says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Adam Thielen will help fill the void of a veteran wide receiver the Carolina Panthers lost when they included DJ Moore in a trade with the Chicago Bears for the first pick of the NFL draft.

The Panthers announced Sunday they reached a deal with Thielen. The deal is for three years, a league source told ESPN.

Thielen met with the Panthers in Charlotte last week as he began exploring free agency. Although he left without a contract, a league source said there was mutual interest between the parties in putting together a deal.

Thielen said Monday on "The Pat McAfee Show" that he had conversations with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and a few other teams, but felt like the Panthers give him the best chance to win the Super Bowl.

"Honestly, I wasn't planning on going to the Panthers. I went on a visit there just to see what they were about. I wanted to go somewhere I felt had an opportunity to win a Super Bowl. When I went there, I sat down with coach, I sat down with the GM, and sat down with all the coaching staff and I felt like Carolina was the place to do that," he said.

"I feel there is a real chance to win a Super Bowl. That gets me so excited.''

Carolina also met with former Detroit Lions wide receiver DJ Chark on Friday, according to a league source. There's still a chance the team could sign him, as well.

Carolina's top wideouts returning from last season were Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr. and Shi Smith, who had a combined 77 catches.

Thielen brings a leadership presence to the receiver meeting room the Panthers were looking for even before Moore was traded to the Bears. Moore had been more of a leader by example.

Thielen was released by the Minnesota Vikings after 10 seasons, designated as a pre-June 1 cut so the team could avoid his salary cap hit for 2023.

The Minnesota native, who played collegiately at Minnesota State Mankato, ranked third on the Vikings' all-time receiving list with 534 catches, trailing only Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Thielen joined the Vikings in 2013 after making the team at a rookie tryout camp, working his way up from the practice squad to a special teams role to becoming a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a star wideout.

Thielen, who will turn 33 in August, had 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns last season. His role, however, started to diminish down the stretch, as he ranked fourth in targets behind younger pass-catchers Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and K.J. Osborn over the final five games.

The Vikings made it clear in conversations this offseason that Thielen, who was slated to make $19.97 million in 2023, would have a lessened role in addition to a pay cut if he restructured his deal to remain with the team. The wideout told ESPN in February he hoped to retire as a Viking but that he also wanted "my opportunity to show that I can play at a high level."

Overall, Thielen, whom the Vikings called "a selfless teammate," has 6,682 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns over his career. His best season came in 2018, when he had 113 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns. He was the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee for 2022.

"He is the best representation of what the Minnesota Vikings stand for," general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.