The Vikings’ defensive front will look significantly different in 2023 compared to last season, with Dalvin Tomlinson having departed in free agency and Za’Darius Smith being traded. Danielle Hunter will remain a key member of the unit for at least one more year, though, having agreed to a new revised contract over the weekend.
That re-worked pact will see the three-time Pro Bowler earn $17MM guaranteed, representing a signficant raise from the $5.5MM he was originally due on the final year of his pact. The agreement should be an effective compromise for team and player, but the situation could have turned out much differently.
Adam Caplan of Pro Football Network reports that Minnesota was exploring the edge rush market prior to the Hunter deal being finalized. Conversations with other teams took place, he adds, meaning the Vikings were eyeing a trade rather than a free agent deal with one of several experienced pass-rushers who still find themselves on the market. The position is one without a clear future beyond 2023 for Minnesota, a team which has moved on from a number of accomplished (but pricey) veterans this offseason.
Hunter – who was named in trade rumors repeatedly in recent months – is set to hit free agency at the end of the season, as is fellow starter Marcus Davenport. The former Saints first-rounder inked a $13MM deal in an aim to put together another healthy campaign and boost his market. D.J. Wonnum, meanwhile, is also entering the final year of his rookie contract. All three members of that trio could thus be gone by the start of the 2024 campaign.
Given the efforts made by Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to clear up financial flexibility this offseason, it comes as little surprise that a Hunter replacement for the short- and, potentially, long-term was on the team’s radar. The Vikings have parted ways with the likes of Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks in addition to Tomlinson and Smith, while quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ future beyond 2023 is in the air. If Hunter has his way, though, he will remain with the team for the foreseeable future.
The 28-year-old said “I want to be a Viking forever” when asked about his plans following the 2023 season (Twitter link via Dane Mizutani of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). The revised contract he agreed to includes a tag prohibiting Minnesota from placing the franchise or transition tag on him, so negotiating a new deal will be necessary for that wish to be granted. Given the team’s actions regarding his position, though, it will be worth watching how willing they are to make another long-term commitment.