Danielle Hunter

Vikings’ Danielle Hunter Addresses 2018 Contract, Offseason Trade Talk

For much of the offseason, it appeared as though Danielle Hunter‘s time with the Vikings would be coming to an end. Instead, team and player reached a compromise for the 2023 campaign, something the veteran edge rusher recently addressed.

Hunter skipped OTAs and minicamp, then staged a hold-in during training camp in the hopes of leveraging a raise from the $5.5MM he was originally due in 2023. That effort came amidst reports that a trade sending him out of Minnesota was being considered. Such a move would have been in line with much of the team’s offseason, one which was dominated by the departure of several veteran players. The Vikings were indeed active in the trade market amongst pass rushers before working out a new Hunter agreement.

That pact – which includes $17MM in guaranteed money and a no-tag clause – will keep the three-time Pro Bowler in place for at least one more season. It also allowed him to move up the financial pecking order amongst edge defenders, something made necessary by the position’s upward market in the years following his $14.4MM-per-year contract being signed in 2018. When speaking about his second Vikings deal, Hunter expressed no regret about the long-term commitment.

“I signed that deal when I was 23 years old,” he said, via Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune“I mean, look at this picture: Most of the guys who come into this league are 23 when they sign their rookie deals. I came into this league at 20 years old, so I don’t regret anything. I’m here now, Year 9, still with my team. I love everybody. I play for my teammates. And I’m still only 28 years old.”

Despite frequently being mentioned in trade talks through the offseason, Hunter added that he never asked to be moved. His 2022 performance (10.5 sacks, 34 pressures) helped confirm his return to form after missing all of the 2020 season and much of 2021. His production thus would have made him a prime extension candidate for an acquiring team, but instead he will play out at least one more year with the only only franchise he has been with in the NFL.

“This is a great organization, and they love me here,” he said. “If anything were to have happened, it was out of my control. I love the Vikings. This is the only thing I know.”

NFC North Rumors: Tom, Bears, Vikes, Lions

This offseason, Zach Tom loomed as a challenger for either the Packerscenter or right tackle spots. While it is not known just yet where the second-year blocker will end up, it looks like his playing time will increase. Tom is going to end up starting, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic notes (subscription required). A fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest, Tom started five of the nine games he played last season and saw time at four of the five O-line positions (all but center). Tom did start at center for the Demon Deacons, however, playing there and at left tackle in college. Former second-round pick Josh Myers has been the Packers’ primary center over the past two seasons. Should Tom land at right tackle, Yosh Nijman — whom the team gave a second-round RFA tender this offseason — would be on track to be a backup.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears‘ running back race is still too early to call, but The Athletic’s Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain posit that Khalil Herbert is the current frontronner. David Montgomery‘s top backup last season, Herbert flashed when available. The former sixth-round pick averaged 5.7 yards per carry, helping the Bears lead the league in rushing. With Montgomery now in Detroit, the Bears have held a three-man competition — between Herbert, UFA pickup D’Onta Foreman and fourth-rounder Roschon Johnson — to replace him. Even if Herbert wins the starter gig, Chicago’s run-oriented attack will likely require regular workloads from multiple backs.
  • Veteran running back Mike Davis stopped through Minneapolis for a recent Vikings workout, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Minnesota, which is all set to complete a Dalvin Cook-to-Alexander Mattison transition, recently auditioned Kareem Hunt as well. Beyond Mattison, the Vikings roster Ty Chandler (2022, Round 5) and DeWayne McBride (2023, Round 7) as their top backfield options. Davis, 30, spent last season with the Ravens but did not carve out much playing time — even for a team reeling at running back. He fared better with the Panthers and Falcons in 2020 and 2021, respectively, combining for 1,145 rushing yards in that span.
  • Byron Murphy played a versatile role for the Cardinals, lining up in the slot and outside. The Vikings are planning to capitalize on Murphy’s slot experience, with ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert noting the free agency pickup will move inside when the team shifts to its nickel package. With nickel and dime sets now more common than base alignments, Murphy should be expected to see plenty of slot work in Minnesota.
  • A 2022 second-round pick, Andrew Booth has not made a strong case to move into the starting lineup alongside Murphy. The Clemson product is running Akayleb Evans, a 2022 fourth-rounder, along with Joejuan Williams and rookie third-rounder Mekhi Blackmon. Williams and Blackmon look to be competing for the CB3 role, The Athletic’s Alec Lewis adds, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling notes the rookie is believed to be ahead of the former Patriots second-rounder. Evans, who played 162 defensive snaps last season, has spent the most time with the first team of this group. The Vikings have rebooted at corner, letting both Patrick Peterson and slot Chandon Sullivan walk in free agency.
  • Danielle Hunter‘s reworked deal calls for a $20.95MM cap hit, and although this is now a contract year for the veteran defensive end, two void years remain on the deal (Twitter links via Goessling and ESPN’s Field Yates). Hunter’s $3MM in incentives are classified as not likely to be earned, per Goessling. The void years would leave the Vikings with a $14.9MM dead-money hit if they do not re-sign Hunter before the 2024 league year begins. Void years led to the Vikings taking a $7.5MM dead-money hit when Dalvin Tomlinson left in free agency this year.
  • While Teddy Bridgewater secured $2.5MM guaranteed from the Lions, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer tweets the veteran QB’s Lions deal is worth $3MM in base value. The Lions used a void year, keeping the cap number at $2.66MM.

Vikings Explored Edge Rush Market Before Danielle Hunter Deal

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.

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 NFL.com 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).

Vikings’ Danielle Hunter On Trade Block?

Danielle Hunter continues to seek a new contract, and the Vikings are now considering “creative solutions” in case they can’t agree to a deal with the pass rusher. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Vikings have “evaluated trade options” for Hunter, with sources from multiple teams indicating that the Vikings have made the player available.

[RELATED: Danielle Hunter Reports To Vikings Training Camp]

Potential suitors reportedly reached out to the Vikings about a trade for Hunter earlier this offseason, although there were never any serious talks. While previous reports seemed to hint that rival teams were initiating the trade talks, it now appears to be the other way around.

This news probably doesn’t bode well for Hunter’s chances of getting a new deal in Minnesota. The veteran is set to earn $5.5MM next season thanks to previous contract restructurings, and he’s looking for a raise following a bounce-back 2022 campaign that saw him finish with 10.5 sacks. Per Fowler, the Vikings have made extension offers to Hunter’s camp but “not on a long-term deal the player feels is commensurate with his skill set.”

Hunter skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp but showed up for the start of training camp. Fowler notes that the edge defender is still not practicing, an indication that Hunter could be engaging in a hold-in. Fowler adds that the general understanding is that Hunter still prefers his release or a trade if he doesn’t get a new contract from the Vikings.

Hunter missed the entire 2020 campaign and was limited to only seven games in 2021 before returning to his All-Pro production in 2022. The 28-year-old finished the season with 65 tackles and 10.5 sacks while finishing as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best edge defender (among 119 qualifying players). Hunter is still playing out a five-year, $72MM extension he signed with the Vikings back in 2018.

Danielle Hunter Reports To Vikings Training Camp

After finishing the 2022 campaign with 10.5 sacks, Danielle Hunter is looking for a raise on the $5.5MM he’s set to earn in 2023. After the pass rusher decided to skip the Vikings’ mandatory minicamp, there were rumbling that he could extend his holdout into training camp.

That won’t be the case, as ESPN’s Kevin Seifert writes that Hunter reported to training camp today. However, since the player skipped all of the team’s offseason practices, he isn’t expected to be a full participant right away. Seifert tweets that he didn’t see the veteran on the field during today’s practice, not even as an observer.

Hunter could also be engaging in a “hold in,” where he avoids fines by attending training camp but refuses to participate in any drills. As a result of his apparent dissatisfaction with his contract, we heard in June that teams reached out to the Vikings about a trade for Hunter (although there were reportedly never any “serious trade talks”).

So, for the time being, the two sides appear to be in a staring contest. Neither coach Kevin O’Connell nor general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would say whether Hunter’s practice status is tied to his contract situation.

“There’s a lot of things that we’re trying to work through with Danielle,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Obviously we haven’t seen him since last season. So that among many other issues that we’re trying to work through with his representatives, those conversations are ongoing.”

The 2015 third-round pick has spent his entire career in Minnesota, transforming into one of the league’s top pass rushers. Hunter earned All Pro nods in 2018 and 2019 after finishing both seasons with 14.5 sacks. However, a herniated disk in his neck ended his 2020 season before it even began, and a torn pectoral muscle limited him to only seven games in 2021.

Hunter returned to his All-Pro production in 2022. The 28-year-old finished the season with 65 tackles and 10.5 sacks while finishing as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best edge defender (among 119 qualifying players). Hunter is still playing out a five-year, $72MM extension he signed with the Vikings back in 2018.

“It’s going to be a day-to-day thing,” O’Connell said of Hunter’s absence. “Danielle and I have had such good dialogue over these last few days, and really trying to build a plan that allows him to feel good about coming to work with as a Minnesota Viking every single day.”

The Vikings have some pass-rushing insurance in Marcus Davenport, but the free agent acquisition was intended to replace Za’Darius Smith. D.J. Wonnum was the primary fill-in for Hunter during OTAs, per Seifert.

Latest On Vikings, Danielle Hunter

With Danielle Hunter choosing to skip the Vikings’ mandatory minicamp, attention is bound to heat up with respect to a potential trade. The veteran pass rusher has already been mentioned in trade talks this offseason, but it remains to be seen how willing Minnesota is to follow through with a potential deal.

Teams have called about Hunter, who has one year remaining on his current contract. The 28-year-old had an encouraging bounce-back season in 2022, racking up 10.5 sacks after two straight campaigns of significant missed time. The Vikings have moved on from several veteran contributors (especially on the defensive side of the ball) this offseason, so it would come as little surprise if a lack of progress in extension talks led to Hunter playing elsewhere in 2023.

However, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert notes that there have been “no serious trade talks to date” with respect to the LSU product. Hunter’s holdout may apply pressure on Minnesota to entertain offers more than they already have, but Seifert’s colleague Jeremy Fowler adds that the team’s preference is to keep the former third-rounder in the fold (Twitter link). That falls in line with previous reporting on the matter indicating Minnesota’s desire to work out a deal which is more favorable for both club and player.

Hunter’s 2023 compensation ($5.5MM) is less than half of his scheduled cap hit ($13.1MM) as a result of the multiple restructures to his deal which have taken place. Another multi-year commitment on the Vikings’ part could be in order given Hunter’s continued production when healthy, though the team has made a clear commitment to freeing up future cap space to be devoted to its younger core players. The former third-rounder could be a member of that group, though the risks of an extension will need to be weighed against the compensation yielded from a trade.

On that point, Fowler adds that a second-round pick may be the starting point in terms of the price of a Hunter acquisition. That would, understandably, represent a better haul than the one Minnesota received for fellow edge rusher Za’Darius Smith in their swap with the Browns last month. A trade would also, on the other hand, leave the Vikings lacking in experienced pass rushers outside of free agent addition Marcus Davenport. The extent to which a trade market develops for Hunter could inform the team’s intentions with respect to his short- and long-term future.

Danielle Hunter To Skip Vikings’ Minicamp

Danielle Hunter has emerged as the latest veteran prepared to miss out on mandatory minicamp amidst a contract dispute. The edge rusher is planning on remaining absent from the Vikings this week, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Hunter has one year remaining on his contract, which has put his future in doubt. The 28-year-old is due $5.5MM in 2023, but his cap hit is $13.1MM, leading in part to the financial impasse he and the Vikings now find themselves in. Hunter was also absent from voluntary OTAs, though this latest decision could lead to fines. Players can be docked a total of nearly $99K if they remain away from their team during three-day minicamps.

Not for the first time, Hunter’s future in Minnesota has come into question this offseason. He was mentioned in trade rumors previously, and the Vikings have received inquiries into his availability in a potential swap. Hunter dealt with injury troubles in 2020 and ’21, but his level of play last season has boosted his value on a new Vikings deal or one with another team.

The LSU product racked up 10.5 sacks in 2022, adding 12 tackles for loss and 22 QB hits, which matched his career high. With his health and production less of a question than previous years, Hunter’s desire to secure a multi-year extension is understandable. On the other hand, the Vikings have parted ways with a number of veterans this offseason, as they look to implement their ‘competitive rebuild’ strategy going forward.

Minnesota released the likes of Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen and, more recently, Dalvin Cook. The team also saw Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson depart in free agency, and traded away edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. The latter’s starting role appeared to be filled by ex-Saint Marcus Davenport, who inked a one-year deal this offseason. Moving on from Hunter via trade or release would yield modest cap savings and a dead cap charge of $7.6MM, and it would leave the Vikings in need of a late edge rush addition to replace him.

The degree to which Hunter’s decision to hold out opens up contract talks will be a key story to follow in the coming days and weeks. If little progress is made on that front, speculation about his future will no doubt continue to heat up.

Teams Calling Vikings On Danielle Hunter

The Vikings exited the draft with both Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith in uncertain territory regarding their Minnesota futures. After trading Smith, the Vikings look to have another impact player in this boat.

Teams have called the Vikes on veteran pass rusher Danielle Hunter, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The trade interest that has formed for Hunter is “pretty serious,” per Rapoport. Hunter’s contract has come up many times since the Vikings extended him back in 2018; one year remains on the deal. Hunter opted to skip voluntary Vikes activities this offseason.

Hunter trade talks took place before a March 2022 roster bonus became due, but the Vikings stood down and paired their longtime edge defender with Smith. The team has since signed Marcus Davenport, who looks to be Smith’s replacement. It would be harder to replace Hunter, seeing as the draft has come and gone. But a number of starter-level edges are available, even after Leonard Floyd‘s Bills deal.

The regime that authorized the Hunter extension is no longer in power, and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has not been shy about making sweeping changes this offseason. The second-year GM held onto Smith for months, despite persistent trade and release rumors, and unloaded him in a late-round pick-swap deal with the Browns. Health has also been an issue for Hunter, though he has produced in big spots for the Vikings over the course of his career.

During the 2018 offseason, Hunter signed a deal that was viewed as a team-friendly pact at the time. When Hunter has been on the field, he has outplayed that five-year, $72MM accord. Becoming the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 sacks, Hunter helped the 2019 Vikings edition to the divisional round. But he missed most of the next two seasons, seeing a neck injury sideline him for all of the 2020 campaign and a torn pec end his ’21 slate after seven games. But Hunter re-emerged as an upper-echelon pass rusher last season, playing all 17 games and registering 10.5 sacks. The three-time Pro Bowler’s 22 QB hits matched a career-high mark as well.

The Vikings have reworked Hunter’s contract on three occasions. The second of those — a June 2021 restructure — moved $5.6MM into a signing bonus and created the $18MM roster bonus that was due in March 2022. The Adofo-Mensah-led front office converted that $18MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, spreading out Hunter’s cap hit through void years. Hunter is only tied to a $4.9MM base salary, attracting interest from teams.

Hunter being disgruntled about his deal has invited the calls, though Rapoport adds the Vikings have attempted to come up with a solution that better compensates their top pass rusher for this season. Despite Hunter going into his ninth season, he is just 28. The early-2020s injuries aside, the former third-round pick has posted four double-digit sack seasons. Hunter would stand to fetch the Vikings more in a trade than Smith did, but the team’s pass rush would also be weakened. The Vikings could save $5.5MM against this year’s cap by trading Hunter.

Minnesota did not draft an edge player this year and has Davenport signed for just one season, with void years present in the ex-Saint’s deal as well. The team will need a resolution regarding Hunter soon, but its mid-2020s edge defender plans are up in the air.

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter To Skip Offseason Program

Players due for lucrative second contracts are often among those who choose to avoid voluntary portions of their team’s offseason programs amidst contract disputes. Danielle Hunter doesn’t fall into that category, but his financial situation will lead to his absence.

The veteran edge rusher is not expected to attend Minnesota’s offseason program, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link). That news comes as Hunter is set to enter the final year of his deal, which calls for $5.5MM in total compensation and a cap hit of $13.1MM. Fowler tweets that the 28-year-old appears to still be in the team’s plans, which hasn’t always been the case.

Hunter found himself on the trade block last offseason, with finances at the heart of the Vikings’ desire to move on from him. They ultimately picked up his sizeable option bonus (made necessary through a 2021 restructure) and agreed to a new deal which lowered his cap hit. Not long after, it came out that a new extension could be on the table, despite Minnesota’s tight cap situation.

The Vikings’ hesitancy to commit to another lucrative Hunter pact came as little surprise given his injury history. The former third-rounder missed the entire 2020 campaign due to a neck injury, while a torn pectoral muscle limited him to seven contests in 2021. During the latter season, though, he showed his continued ability to produce with six sacks in limited action.

Hunter followed that up with a fully healthy 2022 season. He racked up 10.5 sacks – reaching double digits for the fourth time in his career – adding 34 pressures and 22 quarterback hits. That earned him a third career Pro Bowl nod, recognition he has received in each of his three most recent full campaigns. Those figures would help explain his desire for a raise on a new contract.

Minnesota is already dealing with a standing trade request from fellow veteran edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. The team still does not appear willing to move the Pro Bowler, who is on the books for two more years. He and Hunter would represent an expensive pass rushing tandem if the latter were to secure a raise on a new deal, though their collective production points to such an investment being a sound one. Progress on contract talks between the team and Hunter – or, perhaps, a renewal of their attempt to trade him if things go sideways – will be a story to watch as the next phase of the offseason unfolds.