The biggest non-secret with the Eagles is their need for a wide receiver (and corner) and there are four receivers that are normally talked about when discussing how to fill the need. Alshon Jeffery, Terrell Pryor, Desean Jackson, and Kenny Stills get the top four mentions, with Kenny Britt starting to gain some support over the last few days. What if I told you that there is a receiver that could be available in free agency, that isn’t being talked about, and could potentially be even better than the usual suspects. Who’s the player? Adam Thielen of the Vikings.
Pro Football Focus, via ESPN.com, picked one free agent that every team should sign this offseason and their suggestion was Thielen:
Thielen, who finished with 69 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns while dropping only three passes, had a breakout season in 2016 with Minnesota. He was a reliable target for Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, and that same short and intermediate reliability is a must for the Eagles’ offense and QB Carson Wentz. Thielen, who’s a restricted free agent, doesn’t solve all Philadelphia’s issues at the skill positions, but he can play the much-needed role of possession receiver as Wentz continues to develop as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback.
Thielen is only 26 years old and has improved in each of his 3 NFL seasons after going undrafted in the 2013 out of Minnesota State. He has good size at 6’2, 4.45 speed, and only dropped 3 passes in 2016. The Eagles desperately need a reliable receiver for Carson Wentz and Thielen would seem to be a great fit. One problem, though, is that he’s a restricted free agent and the Vikings would have the opportunity to match an offer by another team. Here’s how it works:
The Vikings can tender three pre-determined one-year contracts. Any team can offer Thielen a contract of their own, but the Vikings have the right to match the offer. If they elect to not match, they would get a draft pick for compensation from the team who signed him. The contract that was originally offered or tendered would determine the draft pick. If the Vikings really wanted to keep him, they could tender him a contract that would cost a team signing him a 1st or 2nd round draft pick. That would essentially crush his value in free agency, having to pay him good money and giving up a draft pick as well.
So what will the Vikings do? Here’s some incite from Matthew Coller of ESPN 1500:
Cap room isn’t thought to be a big problem for Minnesota. Releasing Adrian Peterson would create $38 million in space and that number could be increased by restructuring Brian Robison’s deal.
But here’s where it could get hairy: Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinal reported that Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, who caught 42 passes for 726 yards last year, is seeking a five-year contract worth $30 million in free agency. By that measure, a potential offer sheet for Thielen after his 69-catch, 976-yard season would be enormous. And, if said team is smart like the Patriots, they will load up the cap hit early in the contract.
In that case, the Vikings would still be able to keep their 26-year-old receiver, but improving the offensive line and potentially bringing back free agents like Cordarrelle Patterson, Captain Munnerlyn or Terence Newman would be much tougher.
If first-round pick Laquon Treadwell had shown signs of becoming a quality playmaker, the Vikings could let Thielen walk without feeling too much heat. But with only one catch in Treadwell’s rookie year, there are no guarantees he will even become a regular.
With Stefon Diggs rising to stardom and Tredwell being a first round pick just last season, the Vikings may be hesitant to overpay for Thielen. If the Eagles, or any team for that matter, have real interest, overpaying might be the only way to pry him away.
Here are some highlights