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The Vikings Should Lock Up Adam Thielen

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He’s a restricted free agent now, but if the Vikings get too cute, they could find themselves in a tough situation.

Arizona Cardinals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Over the course of the 2016 NFL season, Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver Adam Thielen went from being a feel good story about a local guy done good to a legitimate NFL wide receiver. His 967 receiving yards in 2016 represent the highest total for a Vikings’ pass catcher since Sidney Rice in 2009, and he’s a player that’s gotten better every year he’s been with the Vikings.

Now, following his third NFL season, Thielen is a restricted free agent, and his situation could end up being a lot more complicated. . .but only if the Vikings allow it to be.

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.

Regardless of the tender that the Vikings place on Thielen, it’s very possible that a team could come swooping in and offer Thielen a contract and cough up the draft choice. In the worst case scenario, a team would do so after the 2017 NFL Draft so that they would not have to relinquish a draft pick until the 2018 NFL Draft. And frankly, it’s unlikely that a $4 million price tag would scare a lot of teams off from making a run at a wide receiver that is still on an upward trajectory and has shown that he can get open and make catches.

The Vikings can avoid all of that, however, by locking Thielen up to a longer-term deal before any of that becomes an issue, and it sounds like they might be attempting to do that. Or, at least, it sounds like Thielen’s agent is working on it.

“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Thielen said. “It’s a pretty complex deal but for me, I’m just leaving it to my agent and let me just go work and focus on training and be the best football player I can.”

Thielen’s agent was on 1500 ESPN’s Purple Podcast recently and discussed Thielen’s situation.

Player agent Blake Baratz talks combine and Adam Thielen’s future (ep. 190)

I’m not savvy or knowledgeable enough in the art of contract negotiation or contract projection or anything like that to make a definitive statement about what Thielen might be “worth,” whether it’s to the Vikings or to another team on the open market. I do know that Thielen had himself a heck of a season in 2016 and seems to be a guy that can be a big part of a Vikings’ offense that doesn’t have a whole lot of certainties right now.

Hopefully the Vikings can make something happen to bring Thielen into the fold for the long term. This team doesn’t need any drama on offense if they want to get back to where they’re capable of getting to, and making sure Thielen is around would be a nice start to that.