Danielle Hunter

Vikings Considering Danielle Hunter Extension?

There was one point in the offseason where it sounded like Danielle Hunter might not stick around Minnesota. Now, the defensive end is apparently being considered for an extension. Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah told reporters that extending Hunter remains an option for the franchise.

“We feel great where we are with Danielle,” Adofo-Mensah said (via Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com). “Obviously, that roster bonus was a call to come to the table and get in conversation, dialogue, and we had great conversation with Danielle, his representation Zeke (Sandhu), all members of this organization, and I can say we’re all in a great place. (Hunter) called me from vacation (in Europe) the other day. … You can hear the urgency, the motivation in his voice to kind of resume where he is as one of the elite players in this league, and we’re excited to have back.”

There were rumors that the Vikings weren’t eager to pick up Hunter’s $18MM roster bonus, and as a result, the defensive end found himself on the trading block. Hunter was working against a new regime, a change in defensive schemes, and a lofty $25.8MM cap hit. Ultimately, the organization picked up the bonus and reworked the veteran’s contract, creating more than $13MM in cap space.

Hunter had 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019, and despite missing 2020 due to neck surgery, he still possessed his pass-rushing prowess following his return to the field. In seven games this past season, the 27-year-old collected six sacks and 10 QB hits. He missed the final 10 games of the season thanks to a torn pectoral muscle. Fortunately, Hunter told reporters that he’s back to full health.

“I feel great,” the player said (via Tomasson). “The last two years were pretty unfortunate but I just got to stay positive and have positive people around me. My family’s been there, coaches have been there. So I’m ready to go this season.”

Vikings Rework DE Danielle Hunter’s Contract

The Vikings made a splash when they agreed to a three-year, $42MM deal with Za’Darius Smith today, and one of Smith’s fellow pass rushers indirectly made it happen. Per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the Vikings converted Danielle Hunter‘s $18MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating the $13.5MM in cap space that was used to add Smith.

[RELATED: Vikings Agree To Deal With Za’Darius Smith]

Specifically, the move lowered Hunter’s 2022 cap number from $25.83MM to $12.33MM, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter).

The Vikings picked up Hunter’s $18MM roster bonus this past weekend, a move that was unexpected a few months ago. There were rumors that the Vikings weren’t eager to pick up the option and were trying to trade Hunter. Minnesota has changed regimes and defensive schemes since committing to the veteran, and Hunter’s $25.8MM cap number was a clear target to create additional funds. Cutting or trading Hunter would have saved the Vikes $14MM-plus in cap space.

Hunter’s second straight injury-marred season has reduced his outlook. 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.

Vikings Expected To Keep DE Danielle Hunter

It sounds like Danielle Hunter will be sticking around Minnesota after all. The Vikings plan to pick up the Pro Bowler’s $18MM roster bonus, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

The roster bonus is due on Sunday, and barring an “unforeseen change,” Hunter will be sticking with the Vikings past the deadline. This decision will effectively “tie” Hunter to the Vikings for the final two years of the player’s contract, per Schefter. A 2021 restructure implemented this bonus.

There were rumors earlier this week that the Vikings weren’t eager to pick up the option and were trying to trade Hunter. Minnesota has changed regimes and defensive schemes since committing to the veteran, 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.

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.

Vikings Shopping DE Danielle Hunter

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.

[RELATED: Vikings To Release DT Michael Pierce]

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.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Flowers, Hunter

The Lions, who own the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, are open to trading that selection. If GM Brad Holmes elects to keep it, however, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press does not expect Holmes to pick Liberty QB Malik Willis. Though Detroit worked closely with Willis at the Senior Bowl, and though the big-armed passer performed well at that event, the consensus still seems to be that he is not worthy of the No. 2 pick.

Theoretically, trading down from the top of the draft board could make it more likely that the Lions select Willis or a different quarterback with their first pick, but Birkett does not believe the club will draft a signal-caller with any of its first three selections (presently No. 2, No. 32, and No. 34 overall). If Detroit stays at No. 2, Birkett expects a pass rusher — either Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux — to be the choice.

Let’s round up a few more NFC North notes and rumors:

  • Birkett does expect the Lions to be more active in free agency this offseason than they were last year, and he cites wide receiver and safety as the two likeliest positions to be upgraded with a notable signing. Both he and Chris Burke of The Athletic (subscription required) believe edge defender Trey Flowers looms as a potential cap casualty — Flowers’ release would add $10.5MM to the Lions’ books if he is cut prior to June 1, and $16MM if he is designated a post-June 1 cut.
  • Even without removing Flowers from the roster, Holmes has roughly $25MM of cap space to work with. Because of his position (safety) and connection to the Lions‘ coaching staff, Birkett names the Saints’ Marcus Williams as a potential FA target for Holmes.
  • Vikings standout Danielle Hunter will line up both at DE and OLB in new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell‘s scheme, per Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (via Twitter). Hunter has played in just seven games over the past two years, and between that lack of availability and his lofty 2022 cap charge of $26.1MM, Arif Hasan of The Athletic (subscription required) identifies him as a release candidate. Hasan, though, says such as a move is unlikely, and given how well Hunter performed in 2021 before succumbing to a torn pec — six sacks, six tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits in his seven games — it appears the LSU product will stay in Minnesota and will get a chance to show off his versatility.
  • The Bears have hired Matt Feinstein as their new director of football administration, per a team announcement. As Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago details, Feinstein worked in the league office for seven years, and he will replace Joey Laine, who served as former GM Ryan Pace‘s director of football administration and who was Pace’s lead contract negotiator and salary cap manager.

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/21/21

Once again, we’ve had a busy day of moves on and off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Here are the players who were placed on the list or activated off of it today:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Dalton Keene (remains on IR)

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/14/21

Today’s minor moves:

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Washington Football Team

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter To Miss Rest Of Season

Danielle Hunter is done for the season. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that the veteran defensive end suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter).

Hunter suffered the injury during the second quarter of last night’s loss to the Cowboys. The 27-year-old had an MRI this morning that confirmed the season-ending tear.

After missing the entire 2020 season due to a neck injury, the two-time Pro Bowler seemed to be back to his pass-rushing ways in 2021. Through the first seven games, Hunter had collected six sacks, six tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits. The former third-round pick had previously established himself as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, averaging more than 12 sacks per season between 2016 and 2019.

Hunter skipped Vikings OTAs this past year because of his contract, but the team ultimately appeased their top sack artist, converting $5.6MM of $12.2MM 2021 base salary into a signing bonus while bumping his 2022 earnings by around $8MM. It was speculated that Hunter’s expected $20MM base salary for 2022 was going to be a placeholder while the two sides hammered out a long-term deal. A second-straight season-ending injury will certainly complicate those negotiations. Hunter’s five-year, $72MM extension runs through 2023.

This is tough timing for a Vikings squad that dealt defensive end Stephen Weatherly to the Broncos during their recent bye week. Everson Griffen and D.J. Wonnum had swapped starts opposite Hunter, and the duo will presumably take over the lion’s share of the reps at defensive end going forward.

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.