The next step in Adam Thielen's football rise will be a hefty contract.
Thielen has transformed himself from a Minnesota high school star to a Division II stud at Minnesota State to the most dependable wide receiver on the Vikings' roster. His 967 receiving yards in 2016 were the most for a Vikings receiver since Brett Favre was hooking up with Sidney Rice in 2009.
The 26-year-old Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, native is set to become a restricted free agent in a few of weeks. Instead of being pursued by other teams, Thielen hopes the Vikings "respect" him and offer him a longterm deal.
“Being able to put the film out there that I did and prove that I can be a starter in this league, it’s put me in a good situation,” Thielen told 1500 ESPN at Winterfest last week. “Now I’m just hoping that things can work out and I can be respected in that type of way because I feel like I proved it and hopefully I can stay here long term and be respected with the way they handle me.”
Thielen's agent, Blake Baratz, told ESPN's Ben Goessling that the sooner Minnesota gets a deal with Thielen done the better.
"Every day that gets closer to the end of next season without a deal in place, the pendulum just continues to swing Adam’s way," Baratz said. "I think I’m very fair, Adam’s very realistic, and we want to do something that makes sense for the team and makes sense for Adam. Otherwise, someone’s going to be unhappy.”
Baratz said he'd be "shocked" if teams don't come calling.
According to Spotrac, Thielen's market value warrants a four-year deal worth about $22 million.
Thielen's situation gets a bit more complicated if Minnesota doesn't sign him before free agency begins March 9 (teams can start talking to players March 7). Daily Norseman explains.
"As a restricted free agent, the Vikings could tender Thielen at three different levels. They could place a first-round tender on him (at a cost of around $4 million for 2017), a second-round tender (at a cost of around $2.8 million), or a level that basically gives them nothing more than the right of first refusal (at a cost of around $1.8 million). Generally, the lowest tender would entitle a team to a draft choice equivalent to the round that player was selected in. However, since Thielen signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, there would be no draft pick compensation involved."
We profiled Thielen's awesome 2016 season back in January and it's pretty clear why teams won't be afraid to pay a first- or second-round tender for Thielen.