Danielle Hunter‘s days with the Vikings appear numbered. The accomplished defensive end has an $18MM roster bonus due Sunday, and Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the Vikings are trying to trade him (Twitter link).
A 2021 restructure implemented this bonus, and it does not look like the Vikings intend to pay it. Minnesota has changed regimes and defensive schemes, and Hunter’s $25.8MM cap number is a clear target to create additional funds.
Cutting or trading Hunter would save the Vikes $14MM-plus in cap space. The team began the 2022 league year up against the cap. Hunter’s second straight injury-marred season has reduced his value to the point it is difficult to envision another team paying that bonus. That said, Hunter was the youngest player in NFL history to reach the 50-sack plateau. The two-time Pro Bowler is still just 27.
Hunter joining Za’Darius Smith as an NFC North edge rusher cap casualty would generate interest. Smith collected a four-year, $35MM deal from the Ravens, doing so despite missing 16 games last season because of a back injury. Hunter missed all of the 2020 season with a neck injury and missed the second half of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle.
The former third-round pick has three seasons with at least 12 sacks, including 14.5-sack seasons in 2018 and ’19, and was a key part of the Vikings advancing in the playoffs in both the 2017 and ’19 seasons. Minnesota would lose a pass-rushing staple by dealing or cutting Hunter, who has been with the team since 2015. The Vikings brought back Everson Griffen last season, but after another in-season hiatus, the veteran should not be expected back. D.J. Wonnum was the only player whose sack total (eight) topped Hunter’s seven-game sample (six) last season.