Danielle Hunter is done for the season. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that the veteran defensive end suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter).
After missing the entire 2020 season due to a neck injury, the two-time Pro Bowler seemed to be back to his pass-rushing ways in 2021. Through the first seven games, Hunter had collected six sacks, six tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits. The former third-round pick had previously established himself as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, averaging more than 12 sacks per season between 2016 and 2019.
Hunter skipped Vikings OTAs this past year because of his contract, but the team ultimately appeased their top sack artist, converting $5.6MM of $12.2MM 2021 base salary into a signing bonus while bumping his 2022 earnings by around $8MM. It was speculated that Hunter’s expected $20MM base salary for 2022 was going to be a placeholder while the two sides hammered out a long-term deal. A second-straight season-ending injury will certainly complicate those negotiations. Hunter’s five-year, $72MM extension runs through 2023.
This is tough timing for a Vikings squad that dealt defensive end Stephen Weatherly to the Broncos during their recent bye week. Everson Griffen and D.J. Wonnum had swapped starts opposite Hunter, and the duo will presumably take over the lion’s share of the reps at defensive end going forward.