Vikings, Danielle Hunter Agree To One-Year Deal

The Vikings and pass rusher Danielle Hunter are in agreement on a new one-year contract, as Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of report (via Twitter). The deal will pay Hunter $17MM in guaranteed money, and he can push that number as high as $20MM (an ESPN report notes that Hunter can earn the extra $3MM via sack incentives). Minnesota has also agreed that it will not put the franchise or transition tag on him next offseason.

We heard just yesterday that Hunter was on the trade block, which was the second time this offseason that his name had cropped up in trade rumors. Still, the Vikings are hoping to make another playoff run in 2023, and after trading Za’Darius Smith in May, trading or releasing Hunter would have left the club rather thin in the edge rush department.

In 2022, Hunter — who skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp and who may have been “holding in” for the first several days of training camp as he pursued a new deal — recorded 65 tackles and 10.5 sacks while finishing as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best edge defender out of 119 qualifiers. That performance led to the third Pro Bowl nod of his career.

The LSU product, who was still playing on the five-year, $72MM contract he signed in 2018 (before he earned his first Pro Bowl bid), had watched the pass rusher market explode in subsequent years. So, after posting 14.5 sacks in 2018 and 2019, and after his similarly strong 2022 campaign, it makes sense that the $5.5MM that Hunter was due to earn in 2023 was not particularly appealing to him.

On the other hand, the Vikings’ retience to reward Hunter with a long-term accord that would have placed him near the top of the edge market is also justifiable, as Hunter missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury and was limited to only seven games in 2021 due to a torn pectoral muscle. The compromise that player and team have struck will give Hunter a handsome raise this year and will give him a chance to hit the open market in 2024 while also allowing Minnesota to secure the talents of an elite pass rusher without jeopardizing its future financial flexibility.

Hunter and free agent acquisition Marcus Davenport will operate as the Vikings’ primary outside linebackers. Davenport, who has dealt with his fair share of recent injury troubles, will also be eligible for free agency next offseason. After recording just a half-sack in his final year with the Saints in 2022, Davenport opted for a one-year pact with Minnesota to rebuild his value (although he will still earn at least $10MM this season).

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