In March, The Athletic‘s Chad Graff authored a piece that announced Minnesota Vikings defensive end, Danielle Hunter, was unhappy with his contract.
Hunter missed all of the 2020 season with a neck injury.
The sourced reports sent Vikings faithful into a tizzy as Graff effectively confirmed an Ian Rapoport tweet from five months prior.
#Vikings star Danielle Hunter is having surgery to clean up a herniated disc, knocking him out for 2020, per me & @TomPelissero. MIN has a decision this offseason: Make Hunter the highest-paid defender in football or trade him. Have we seen the last of him in a Vikings uniform👀
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2020
For about two days, Minnesotans believed that Hunter was indeed melancholy about his contract with the Vikings, promoting fodder that Hunter was likely tunneling down the pipeline in which Stefon Diggs traveled. That is — another star that “could not get along with Mike Zimmer” was heading to a different football team.
Hunter’s agent later quieted the storm and denounced The Athletic story. Since then, Hunter’s name has twisted in trade winds — left there mostly by outsiders set on splashing the 26-year-old into their trade scenarios. The Vikings management fully expects Hunter to play in Minnesota this September.
If he doesn’t, well, the Vikings have no pass rush. Plain and simple.
The Vikings defensive line looks like this as of early April:
(LDE) Danielle Hunter, (NT) Michael Pierce), (DT) Dalvin Tomlinson, (RDE) Stephen Weatherly / D.J. Wonnum.
Should Hunter venture elsewhere — like ESPN’s Bill Barnwell spitballed on Thursday — the Vikings basically have the 2020 defensive line, plus some run-stopping capability. Last season, Minnesota could not stop the run or pass. This 2021 Hunter-less lineup would stop a lot of running backs but inspire no quarterback fear.
But the Vikings pass rush be damned, says Barnwell.
The ESPN writer detailed trades that make sense for each team in his lengthy article. When he got to the Dallas Cowboys, Barnwell decided Hunter needed to play in the heart of Texas. His hypothetical trade sent Hunter and the Vikings 14th pick in the 2021 draft to Dallas for these draft picks — 1st, 2nd, and 4th Rounders from the upcoming draft.
What the hell?
This trade would skip Minnesota ahead four spots and toss them a 2nd Rounder as sweetener. However, there is no EDGE rusher at the 10th hole worthy of a Top 10 pick. And that means the Vikings would be left to “figure it out” as to Hunter’s replacement. Bizarre.
Barnwell said of the theoretical deal:
“[The Cowboys] can address both of those problems by trading down and grabbing a star edge rusher in the process. Hunter, who went to high school in Texas, missed all of 2020 with a neck injury amid reports that he was unhappy with his contract. George Edwards, who was formerly the defensive coordinator in Minnesota, is on Dallas’ staff as a senior defensive assistant. The Cowboys would still be in position to take a player such as Alabama corner Patrick Surtain at No. 14. (They’ll figure out the cap later.) By the Johnson chart, this deal would value Hunter as roughly equivalent to the 25th pick in a typical draft; given that he’s coming off neck surgery and is due for a meaningful raise, that’s probably close to fair value. The Vikings would be moving up to grab Slater, who would step in as their left tackle after they cut Riley Reiff. The Giants (No. 11) and Chargers (No. 13) would both be plausible candidates to take Slater ahead of Minnesota, who would then have to address its holes on the edge later in the draft. The second-rounder it gets from the Cowboys would help make up for the second-rounder it shipped off to the Jaguars as part of the ill-fated deal for Yannick Ngakoue last year.”
It is severely unlikely that Hunter is traded anywhere — let alone for this whimsical package. In fact, the Vikings might even draft an EDGE rusher in the 1st Round to complement Hunter — not reduce the DE section of the depth chart to rubble.
The difference in opinion with Barnwell among others is that he puts a lot of stock in Hunter returning from injury (that is, uncertainty about his prognosis), and that the LSU alumnus wants a fat new deal.
Both items drive his trade value down — evidently to the depths of laughability.