Adam Thielen will play home games outside Minnesota for the first time in his life next fall.
Thielen, who turns 33 in August, agreed to sign with Carolina on Sunday night, the team announced, giving new Panthers coach Frank Reich a veteran target for the eventual No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Thielen agreed to a three-year deal worth $25 million with $14 million fully guaranteed, according to a league source.
The Vikings released Thielen earlier this month after the team and 11th-year veteran could not agree on a restructured contract. The Vikings sought salary cap space, gaining $6.4 million with his release, and Thielen had made his desires known as he wanted to be a larger part of the weekly game plans, a source said this month.
Those differences led to a split between Thielen and a Vikings franchise that had been part of his life since childhood fandom in Detroit Lakes. Thielen, who signed following an undrafted tryout in 2013 out of Minnesota State Mankato, ranks third in Vikings history in receptions (534) and touchdown catches (55), and fourth in receiving yardage (6,682).
Thielen, a two-time Pro Bowl player and team captain, called his Vikings tenure a "journey beyond what I could have dreamed" following his release.
"I poured everything I had into these last 10+ years in representing and playing for this team and state," Thielen wrote on social media. "My family and I will always cherish the memories we created on and off the field. Minnesota is — and will always be — home to us."
Thielen could get more looks in the Panthers offense after his opportunity faded in Minnesota following the midseason acquisition of tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Panthers traded top receiver D.J. Moore, who was targeted 118 times last season, to the Bears in a package for the No. 1 overall draft selection in April.
Which Panthers quarterback will be throwing to Thielen remains to be seen. Carolina signed veteran Andy Dalton, who is a placeholder for whichever passer the Panthers take atop the draft.
Thielen is a surefire Ring of Honor candidate in Minnesota, but the Vikings will be seeing him again even sooner. Minnesota is scheduled to travel to Carolina during the 2023 regular season.