Danielle Hunter

Vikings’ Danielle Hunter Officially Done For Year

Danielle Hunter has been officially ruled out for the season after undergoing successful neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, head coach Mike Zimmer announced (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin). This was the expected move for Hunter, who has not seen the field in 2020.

Hunter recently got a second opinion from a specialist in New York, who told him to shut it down for the season. On the field, he’s been sorely missed, though the Vikings’ problems have not been limited to the edge rush. The Vikings have struggled to generate consistent pressure without Hunter, and they’re now trying to improve on that front without the services of Yannick Ngakoue, who was shipped to the Ravens earlier this month.

When the Vikings placed Hunter on injured reserve in September, they hoped that Hunter would be able to make his debut either this week or next. Instead, he’ll be shelved for the remainder of the season. Even in a best case scenario, it wouldn’t have been an easy call to activate him. At 1-5, the one-time Super Bowl contenders aren’t playing for much.

Last year, Hunter graded out as the No. 7 ranked edge rusher in the league, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. He notched 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, bringing his career tally to 54.5. He’ll still be tied to the team for years to come, thanks to the five-year, $72MM extension he inked in 2018.

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter Done For Year

In August, the Vikings classified Danielle Hunter‘s neck injury as a tweak. Today, they learned that the defensive end will require season-ending surgery (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). 

[RELATED: Vikings Trade Ngakoue To Ravens] 

The news comes on the heels of the Vikings’ big trade, which sent Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick. Now, the 1-5 Vikings are moving ahead without their two top pass rushers.

Hunter traveled to New York for a second opinion on his cervical spine disc herniation recently. During the visit, the specialist recommended that Hunter shut it down for the season. The Vikings have been unable to generate consistent pressure without the sixth-year defensive end, and things won’t get any better without Ngakoue in the mix.

Last year, Hunter graded out as the No. 7 ranked edge rusher in the league, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. He’s notched 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, bringing his career tally to 54.5. He’ll be tied to the team for years to come, thanks to the five-year, $72MM extension he inked in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Vikings, Danielle Hunter

Eligible to be activated off the Vikings’ IR list this week, Danielle Hunter does not look to be on the verge of making his 2020 debut. And the injured Pro Bowler’s season could be in jeopardy.

Hunter traveled to New York for a second opinion on his injured neck, according to Mike Zimmer. This visit produced a recommendation Hunter not play this season, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. The sixth-year defensive end is dealing with cervical spine disc herniation, per ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin (on Twitter).

While the Vikings classified Hunter’s injury as a tweak in August, Cronin adds they were expecting a six- to eight-week hiatus for the talented pass rusher when they placed him on IR in September (Twitter link). The early end of that timetable has not yet arrived, and the Vikings have yet to feature their new-look Hunter-Yannick Ngakoue tandem.

Minnesota is 0-3 and ranks 31st in points allowed. None of Zimmer’s Vikings defenses have finished outside the top 11. While DVOA places the Vikings’ defense 19th through three games, Hunter’s absence — on a defense that is much younger than the past few Minnesota units — has certainly shown up.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Baker, Thomas, Hunter

Cardinals star safety Budda Baker is playing through a torn UCL in his thumb, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. Baker plans to play in Arizona’s game against the Lions this afternoon and then undergo surgery this week. Although the same injury sidelined Saints QB Drew Brees for six weeks last season, Baker obviously does not have to throw the football and believes he will miss only the Cardinals’ Week 4 contest against the Panthers before returning to the field to take on the Jets in Week 5.

Now for more injury-related news regarding a few of the league’s high-profile players:

  • There has been a great deal of talk about Brees’ struggles early this season, but the Saints‘ signal-caller may soon have his top target back. Wide receiver Michael Thomas has looked good in workouts and is eyeing a Week 4 return, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings need a boost on both sides of the ball, and they are clearly missing DE Danielle Hunter. As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, Hunter, who is dealing with a herniated disc in his neck, is eligible to come off IR next week but is unlikely to be ready to return by then. However, he is regaining strength, and the team remains optimistic that he will be back this season.
  • Titans WR A.J. Brown is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, and the injury is a significant one, according to Schefter (via Twitter). Brown’s knee has not responded as well to treatment as the team had hoped, and he might end up missing more than just this afternoon’s game against Minnesota.
  • More difficult news for Tennessee. Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson is eligible to come off IR this week, but Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com hears that Jackson may not be sufficiently recovered from his knee injury for that to happen (Twitter link). It’s unclear how much additional time the 2017 first-rounder will miss.
  • 49ers WR Deebo Samuel is likely to return to practice this week, as Rapoport notes (via Twitter). Samuel will be eased into action, and while he probably won’t play in Week 4, the Niners’ top wideout is expected back for the team’s Week 5 bout with the Dolphins.

NFC Notes: Hunter, Ertz, Godwin, Lee, Packers

When Danielle Hunter signed his Vikings extension in the summer of 2018 — a five-year, $72MM pact — most viewed it as a team-friendly agreement. With Khalil Mack soon raising the edge rusher price ceiling to $23.5MM per year, Hunter’s contract quickly became a bargain for the Vikings. On average, Hunter’s $14.4MM-per-year price now ranks 17th among edge defenders. Zero-time Pro Bowlers like Dante Fowler and Arik Armstead signed for more than Hunter makes this offseason. Perhaps unsurprisingly, whispers have emerged that the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end is unhappy with his contract, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (Insider link). Hunter has three 12-plus-sack seasons and has recorded 14.5 in each of the past two. While Fowler expects the Vikings to address the issue at some point, they have him under team control through 2023. The 25-year-old defensive end is currently on Minnesota’s IR list.

Here is the latest from the NFC, shifting first to another contract issue:

  • Zach Ertz‘s Eagles situation certainly became one to monitor, with the Pro Bowl tight end voicing his frustrations about his future with the franchise and reportedly engaging in a heated discussion with GM Howie Roseman. The changing tight end marketplace, as could be expected, has impacted Ertz’s extension discussions. The deals the 49ers and Chiefs respectively gave George Kittle and Travis Kelce complicated the Eagles’ Ertz talks, forcing them to stall, Fowler adds. Ertz is under contract through 2021, but his $8.5MM-per-year deal is now well out of step with the top of the market. Kelce and Kittle recently signed for more than $14MM annually.
  • Sean Lee‘s latest injury moved him to the Cowboys‘ IR list, and he may be there for a while. Teams can move players from IR back to active rosters after three weeks this season, but the sports hernia surgery the injury-prone linebacker underwent is expected to shelve him for at least six weeks, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. The Cowboys are down Lee and Leighton Vander Esch, after what turned out to be a rough opening week for the team. Vander Esch, whom Lee replaced in a three-down role alongside Jaylon Smith late last season, is expected to miss more than six weeks as well. Joe Thomas is set to team with Smith as a three-down player against the Falcons.
  • The Buccaneers have downgraded Chris Godwin from doubtful to out for their Week 2 game against the Panthers. Godwin developed concussion-like symptoms midweek and remains in the team’s protocol.
  • A groin injury Kenny Clark suffered in Week 1 will sideline him for the Packers‘ Week 2 tilt against the Lions. Clark left last week’s game, leaving Green Bay without its top defensive lineman for the time being.

Vikings Place Danielle Hunter On IR

The Vikings have placed defensive end Danielle Hunter on injured reserve, per a club announcement. To take his place on the roster, they’ve promoted kicker Chase McLaughlin from the practice squad. 

Thanks to the league’s modified IR rules for 2020, Hunter will only be required to sit out for three weeks before returning. It’s not clear if he’ll be ready to go by mid-October, however. All we know for now is that he’ll be out for Sunday’s opener against the Packers, plus the next two games against the Colts and Titans.

Hunter has been limited and out of practice with a rumored neck injury since August 16th. Fortunately, new addition Yannick Ngakoue is there to help keep the pressure on. He’ll be paired with Ifeadi Odenigbo, who will fill-in as the other starting bookend in Hunter’s absence.

The Vikings have four more years of club-friendly control over Hunter, thanks to the five-year, $72MM deal extension he inked in 2018. Now entering his age-26 season, Hunter has 54.5 career sacks to his credit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Vikings Lock Up Danielle Hunter

Two years ago today, Danielle Hunter inked a five-year deal worth $72MM. It was a serious pay bump for the former third-round pick, who was still a few months away from his 24th birthday. The add-on gave him ample security – a $15MM signing bonus, $40MM in overall guarantees, and favorable cashflow with $48MM over the first three years. Still, the deal proved to be a win for the Vikings. 

[RELATED: Latest On Dalvin Cook, Vikings]

The Vikings didn’t want to let Hunter get anywhere near the open market. In his first three pro seasons, Hunter registered 25.5 sacks, more than any other player who entered the league in 2015. He waited a while to hear his name called on draft weekend, but he outperformed Vic BeasleyLeonard Williams, and other notable edge rushers in that class by a longshot. Also, Hunter and teammate Everson Griffen combined for 57 combined sacks from 2015-17, the second most of any duo in the NFL in that span.

In 2017, just prior to the extension, Hunter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 29 ranked edge defender in the NFL. Last year, Hunter finished seventh in the category, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. He’s notched 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, bringing his career tally to 54.5.

Meanwhile, his $14.4MM average annual value ranks 18th among edge rushers, according to Over The Cap. The Vikings have four more years of control over Hunter and, at this time, he stands as one of the league’s best veteran values.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter Reworks Contract

10:38am: The Vikings converted $8MM of Hunter’s $10.9MM salary into a signing bonus, according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin (via Twitter). The pass-rushers $14.5MM cap hit has been reduced to $9MM.

8:33am: Danielle Hunter has reworked his contract. The NFL’s transactions page listed the defensive end as having “signed, renegotiated contract,” per Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com.

It’s unclear how Hunter’s contract has changed. Tomasson notes that $10.4MM of Hunter’s $10.9MM 2020 base salary was set to become fully-guaranteed on Friday. The Vikings have been scrambling around for some extra cap space, and restructuring contracts is one natural solution.

The 2015 third-round pick has emerged into one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods during his five years with Minnesota. That includes a 2019 campaign where Hunter compiled 70 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and 14.5 sacks – the second-straight season that he’s finished with that many sacks.

The Vikings’ cap problems may have played a role in their breakup with Everson Griffen. Yesterday, the player’s agent said they’ve “broken off talks with Minnesota because they have to spend their money elsewhere.”

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Details On Danielle Hunter’s Extension

Continuing their recent run of defensive fortification, the Vikings agreed to a five-year, $72MM deal with Danielle Hunter. He’s now the second-highest-paid player on Minnesota’s defense, coming in behind only Xavier Rhodes.

Locked up through 2023, Hunter will earn $37.9MM across the first three years of this contract, Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. That’s down from a previously reported $48MM figure. This season won’t feature a substantial hit to the Vikings’ payroll, with Krammer noting Hunter’s 2018 cap number will come in at just $5MM. After this season, the eight-figure hits start coming.

The 23-year-old defensive end will count $13MM toward Minnesota’s 2019 cap and $14MM in 2020. In 2021 and ’22, Hunter’s deal will represent $15MM of the Vikes’ payroll. Of course, the cap can be expected to reside north of $200MM by then, so these numbers — on a deal that can be classified as Vikings-friendly — may not look especially imposing once the next decade begins.

Incentives also appear in this contract but don’t comprise too much of it. Krammer adds that Hunter’s re-up contains $6MM in incentives across its five-year span. There are also $2.5MM in total per-game roster bonuses and $500K in workout bonuses housed in this agreement, per Krammer.

The Vikings now have Hunter, Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Eric Kendricks, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith signed long-term. This sextet is all locked in through at least the 2021 season. While an extension for Anthony Barr is being discussed, the Vikings already have a substantial portion of their defensive core under team control for the foreseeable future.

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Reactions To Danielle Hunter’s Extension

On Wednesday, the Vikings and Danielle Hunter agreed to a five-year, $72MM extension. The new deal, which will keep Hunter in place through 2023, is said to include $40MM in guarantees, giving the 23-year-old plenty of financial security. Still, many are wondering whether Hunter should have waited in order to get more out of the Vikings.

Here’s a look at some of the reactions to Hunter’s brand new deal:

  • The deal is a team-friendly “steal” for the Vikings, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap (via Twitter links) opines. Hunter, he feels, could have targeted Olivier Vernon‘s five-year, $85MM deal had he notched about ten sacks this year and entered the free agent market in ’19. Hunter’s deal gives him nearly as much as teammate Everson Griffen, but Hunter is significantly younger and is on his way to being equally productive. At minimum, Fitzgerald feels that Hunter would have been better served by waiting for the market to reset at $20MM/year when Khalil Mack and others sign their next deals.
  • Hunter didn’t top Vernon, but Cowboys star DeMarcus Lawrence should blow right past him, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets. As Corry notes, Lawrence and Vernon are both represented agent by David Canter.
  • With Hunter locked up, Vikings GM Rick Spielman indicated that wide receiver Stefon Diggs and linebacker Anthony Barr may be next up for extensions (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin). “We want to keep all of our guys and we’ll try to see if there’s a way that we can do that because not only, those guys are very important to us and would love to get them locked up as well,” the GM said.