Danielle Hunter

NFC Notes: Goodwin, Hunter, Murphy, Saints

Marquise Goodwin‘s bid to make a second U.S. Olympic team failed Friday. The Bears wide receiver was unable to qualify for Sunday’s finals in the long jump, placing 19th out of 24 jumpers in the prelims at the U.S. Olympic trials. An Olympian in 2012, Goodwin has now fallen short of returning to the U.S. team in back-to-back trials. He placed seventh at the 2016 Rio-qualifying event. The 30-year-old’s best jump a 24-foot, 10-inch leap, was nearly three feet shy of his career-best mark — set at the 2012 trials. Goodwin falling short should not exactly surprise, given his focus on an NFL career in the years since the London Games. Although the veteran wideout met the Olympic standard at a March meet, he has been far from an active jumper during his NFL career. He can now transition to full-time football prep. Goodwin, who signed with the Bears in April, will now be on track to join his team on time for training camp.

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Danielle Hunter‘s reworked contract ended up creating nearly $4MM in cap space for the Vikings. The Pro Bowl defensive end’s adjusted deal dropped his 2021 cap number from $17.25MM to $13.37MM, per Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson (Twitter link). This pact added $9.45MM in total guarantees to Hunter’s contract, Wilson tweets. In 2022, Hunter’s base salary will drop to $1.4MM, per Wilson (on Twitter), with the $18MM roster bonus comprising most of his $26.1MM cap figure. The Vikings also included a $1MM sack-based incentive for their top pass rusher.
  • The Cardinals lost All-Decade cornerback Patrick Peterson, a 10-year starter, in free agency. Fellow 2020 Arizona boundary starter Dre Kirkpatrick is gone as well. However, the Cards want to keep top holdover Byron Murphy primarily in the slot, Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com notes. GM Steve Keim called Murphy one of the league’s top inside defenders earlier this year, and the former second-round pick fared much better in 2020 than he did as a rookie in ’19. Murphy’s snap rate, however, dropped from 98% in 2019 to 72% last season. The Cards also signed Darqueze Dennard this offseason; Dennard mostly played in the slot with the Bengals. It will be interesting to see how DC Vance Joseph deploys Murphy, whom he called his top corner, in the Washington product’s third season.
  • The Saints‘ starting lineup received some shakeups this offseason, most notably at quarterback. But Taysom Hill and/or Jameis Winston are still set to play behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. However, the Saints may be considering a change up front. Upon selecting Cesar Ruiz in last year’s first round, the Saints originally planned to play him at center and move incumbent Erik McCoy to right guard, per Larry Holder of The Athletic. But McCoy’s play at center through two seasons prompted New Orleans to leave him there. While a switch may still be a consideration, Holder expects the two blockers to stay put for now (subscription required). McCoy has been a quality center, but Pro Football Focus ranked Ruiz 64th among guards last season.

Latest On Vikings, Danielle Hunter

After reworking his contract, Danielle Hunter reported for the Vikings’ minicamp this week. The accomplished pass rusher did not participate, but he is confident he will be ready for the upcoming season.

Hunter acknowledged he is not yet in football shape, but regarding the neck injury that derailed his 2020 season, the seventh-year defensive end categorized himself as “100%,” via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Hunter passed his physical and looked “fantastic,” Mike Zimmer said.

A herniated disk required Hunter to undergo season-ending neck surgery last year. This certainly complicated his pursuit of a new contract, and Hunter did skip Vikings OTAs because of an issue with his deal. The Vikings moved some money up to appease their top sack artist, converting $5.6MM of $12.2MM 2021 base salary into a signing bonus. This created a bit of cap room and could benefit Hunter in 2022.

The Vikings picking up Hunter’s new $18MM roster bonus — due on Day 5 of the ’22 league year — would bump his 2022 earnings by around $8MM, increasing his base salary to around $20MM. That is a rather high number, even with the salary cap likely to eclipse $200MM, and it would make sense for the Vikings to give Hunter a new deal before that point — if they see him return to form this season. Hunter’s five-year, $72MM extension runs through 2023.

In each of the two seasons following the extension agreement, Hunter notched 14.5 sacks. In December 2019, Hunter became the youngest to 50 career sacks — topping Robert Quinn — and made his second straight Pro Bowl. Without him and several other veterans in 2020, the Vikings plummeted from fifth to 29th in points allowed. With Hunter, 26, and Anthony Barr due back from injury, along with the new Michael PierceDalvin TomlinsonSheldon Richardson interior D-line trio, Minnesota’s defense figures to improve this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings, Danielle Hunter Rework Deal

The Vikings and Danielle Hunter have agreed to a restructured contract, as NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. With that, they’ve avoided a potential standoff with the defensive end. 

Hunter has been pushing for a new deal, but he told the team he’d still report to minicamp this week. Now, Hunter will get to see more of his money sooner while the Vikings will actually eke out some room for the present year.

The 26-year-old will get $5.6MM of his 2021 base salary in the form of a signing bonus. Meanwhile, in 2022, he’ll collect an $18MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by the fifth day of the league year. If they decide to keep him next March, he’ll be on the books for $20MM with that $18MM portion guaranteed. Or, they can choose to part ways with a modest dead cap hit.

Previously, Hunter was scheduled to make $12.15MM in base pay with another $5.6MM in bonuses for 2022. In effect, Hunter is betting on himself after neck surgery. The Vikings were happy to oblige, because they now have a more reasonable escape hatch if things don’t pan out. Meanwhile, Hunter’s 2023 season appears to be in tact — that year, he’s slated to carry a $14.75MM cap hit with just $2MM locked in.

Hunter missed all of last year with a neck injury and, in the process, underscored his value to the Vikings. Without him, they totaled just 23 sacks. In the previous two years, Hunter personally notched 14.5 sacks.

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter To Report To Minicamp

7:47pm: The Pro Bowl defensive end completed a medical checkup at the Vikings’ facility Monday, per the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling (on Twitter), clearing the way for participation at the team’s minicamp.

11:40am: Danielle Hunter will join the Vikings for the start of mandatory minicamp (Twitter link via James Jones of NTAF). Hunter has been hoping for a new deal, but it sounds like he’ll be a good sport and dodge the potential fines for skipping. 

Last year, we heard that Hunter would demand a trade if the Vikings didn’t give him a fresh contract. It’s not clear where things stand, but the defensive end wouldn’t necessarily be negotiating from a position of strength. Hunter had 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019. But, last year, he didn’t play at all due to a herniated disk in his neck. At last check, GM Rick Spielman said his rehab was going well and expected him to be on track for the start of the season.

Before the injury, Hunter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7-ranked edge rusher in the league, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. As it stands, the Vikings have him locked up through 2023, thanks to the five-year, $72MM extension he inked a few years back.

That deal gives him $12.15MM in base salary for each of the next three years, plus ~$14MM in potential bonuses. Hunter’s an elite pass rusher when he’s healthy, so he wants a better deal to match.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Adjust Danielle Hunter’s Contract

Danielle Hunter reported to Vikings minicamp and soon received some additional cash. The Vikings, who signed Hunter to a team-friendly extension in 2018, adjusted their top pass rusher’s deal Monday.

The team converted $5.6MM of the veteran defensive end’s contract to a signing bonus, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This will give the seventh-year veteran a nice cash influx and also put the Vikings to a decision next year. While Hunter is still signed through the 2023 season, this contract adjustment may change that.

Hunter’s deal now includes an $18MM roster bonus due on Day 5 of the 2022 league year, Rapoport tweets. This will put the Vikings to a decision on their Pro Bowl sack artist. Hunter being part of the Vikings in 2022 will likely depend on his health. He missed all of last season due to a herniated disk in his neck, placing the 26-year-old defender in a less-than-ideal negotiating position.

Hunter’s injury, however, greatly impacted the Vikings. They sported a porous defense for the first time in Mike Zimmer‘s tenure, with a younger group battling other injuries and lacking for reliable pressure threats. Bringing Hunter back into the fold stands to be significant for a Vikings team that devoted key offseason resources to upgrading its defense.

When Hunter signed his five-year, $72MM deal three summers ago, a consensus emerged that the Vikings scored a big win. Hunter then made the next two Pro Bowls with 14.5-sack seasons in 2018 and ’19. Less accomplished pass rushers then cashed in. Going into the 2021 season, Hunter is the NFL’s 17th-highest-paid edge defender. The Vikings, however, have given him a path to change that status.

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Vikings GM Rick Spielman: Kirk Cousins Is Our Quarterback, We Anticipate Having Danielle Hunter

The Vikings were a big disappointment in 2020, sparking some murmurs that the team could potentially look to move on from Kirk Cousins. Mike Zimmer tried to nip that in the bud about a month ago, and now Minnesota GM Rick Spielman is coming down emphatically.

Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” Spielman said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he’s ever played down that stretch last year. Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him (having) another year in this system.”

Some people connecting dots have floated the 49ers as a potential landing spot due to Cousins’ history with Kyle Shanahan, but that sounds exceedingly unlikely. Cousins signed an extension around this time last year that has him wrapped up through the 2022 season. Assuming Cousins is on the roster past March 19th, his 2022 salary of $35MM becomes guaranteed, so they won’t be able to just dump him after this season if he doesn’t perform.

Spielman also provided an update on star pass-rusher Danielle Hunter. There had been a report last year that Hunter would look for a trade if Minnesota didn’t adjust his contract, but Spielman said he hasn’t heard anything about a possible trade demand.

Hunter, who had 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019, didn’t play at all last year due to a herniated disk in his neck. Spielman said his rehab has gone well, “he looks in great shape,’’ and that “we anticipate him being here.’’

He also said the team anticipates having defensive tackle Michael Pierce back in the fold in 2021. Pierce signed a three-year, $27MM deal with the team last March, but then opted out of the season due to COVID-19.

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.