The Danielle Hunter Contractual Saga Isn’t Over

The Danielle Hunter Contractual Saga Isn't Over
Danielle Hunter

While the Minnesota Vikings and Danielle Hunter arrived at quasi-kumbaya last weekend, Hunter’s contractual saga isn’t over.

Minnesota had a deadline recently to decide on Hunter as his salary would guarantee against the books on March 20. Hunter could’ve been traded, extended on a deal more aligned with his market value, released, or watched his contract stay as-is. The Vikings, for now, chose the latter.

Danielle Hunter
Nov 25, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) celebrate after a play during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, after Minnesota signed former Green Bay Packers EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah held a press conference, updating the media and fans on free agency. Among many insightful responses to reporters’ questions, Adofo-Mensah revealed he and Hunter’s camp are still working toward a long-term deal.

For a few days, based on the Vikings “do nothing” climax of the Hunter contract at the deadline, it seemed the team would simply allow Hunter to play out his existing deal. That still might occur, but with the Smith joining the team, interest was evidently rejuvenated to sign Hunter long-term.

Hunter’s current contract is not an ideal one for the player. It is not horrible in the grand scheme of life, yet he earns $14.4 million annually. That ranks 18th in the NFL among 229 EDGE rushers. When the healthy version of Hunter is on the field, he is not a “Top 18” pass rusher. Hunter is closer to the Top 5 or so.

Danielle Hunter
Jan 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings, Defensive End, Danielle Hunter, (99) at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, his representation wants the LSU alumnus compensated closer to Top 5 than Top 18.

But there’s a problem. Suddenly, Hunter became labeled injury-prone because of one-off injuries to his neck (2020) and torn pec (2021). Before the 2020 season, Hunter was a beacon of good health. So now, Adofo-Mensah must decide if the health maladies are implicative of a continued bout with injuries — or blips on the radar. Hunter’s agent isn’t interested in litigating the injury history; his job is to net his client Top 5 cash. That’s where the standstill is born.

The takeaway? There is enthusiasm by the Vikings to get the Hunter deal done sometime between now and the start of the 2022 season. That deal hasn’t been made yet, but from the lips of Adofo-Mensah, willingness exists to sign on with Hunter for longer.

And, to date, when Adofo-Mensah says something at a press conference, his words aren’t misdirecting.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His YouTube Channel, VikesNow, debuts in March 2022. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).