Thielen, 32, was one of the most notable names among free agent wide receivers after being released by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent nearly a decade with the franchise, going from an undrafted free agent to a very productive member of the offense.
His best year in Minnesota came in 2018, when he caught 113 passes for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns. In all, Thielen finished with 534 catches for 6,682 yards and 55 touchdowns during his nine-season tenure in Minnesota.
Thielen ultimately chose to sign with the Panthers, a team that finished 7-10 last season and have no certain plan at quarterback. He said he had conversations with the Cowboys and Broncos before choosing Carolina.
“There was the Broncos, Cowboys. You know, I had conversations with those teams and a few others,” Thielen said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “Again, the Panthers just felt like the best fit and it all kind of just worked out. It all happened kind of quickly. I didn’t know when it was going to happen and it just kind of all came at once. But, again, my family, my wife, my kids, we’re so excited to go there.”
Thielen Feels Panthers in Position to Win Super Bowl
Thielen ended up signing a massive three-year $25 million contract with the Panthers, which is likely much more than what the Cowboys were willing to pay for an aging wide receiver whose best years are likely behind him.
“A lot of people are going to say I went there for the money and all that, but honestly at the end of the day, again, money was not a big deal,” Thielen said. “Of course, you want to get paid what you feel like you are worth. But at the end of the day, again, I wanted to go to a good situation for my family, for myself, and ultimately, that I felt like a place seriously had a chance at winning a Super Bowl. Again, I really do feel strongly with that.”
The Cowboys finished last season with a 12-5 record but were eliminated in the Divisional Round by the San Francisco 49ers. Something that hurt the Cowboys was a lack of wide receiver depth, which they addressed this offseason with a trade for Brandin Cooks.
Cooks Restructure Made Him Much Better Option for Cowboys
Cooks played the last three seasons in Houston, going over 1,000 yards in two of those campaigns. He missed four games last season for the struggling Texans, notching 57 catches for 699 yards and three touchdowns.
After reworking his contract, he comes with a cheaper price tag than Thielen. They turned $8 million of his $12 million salary into a signing bonus and he’ll count just $4 million against the cap. It’s a heck of a deal for a proven pass-catcher who should thrive alongside CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
“I couldn’t be more hungry,” Cooks said. “Last three years, it is what it is. But when you step into a locker room like this and an organization, and you got those three years under your belt like that, I mean, it’s definitely fueling the fire and that hunger to be able to come out here and just show up and help my team win. I can’t wait. I truly can’t.”
The acquisition of Cooks likely ends the Cowboys’ pursuit of Odell Beckham Jr., which dates back to last season.