Vikings Should Make One Guy an Offseason Priority

NFC Rivals Could Play Spoiler to Ideal Vikings Draft Scenario
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah the team's year-end press conference for the 2022 season after losing to the New York Giants in the playoffs.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be challenged after the season to build the best possible roster for 2024 and the following years. After parting ways with some franchise cornerstones in 2023, three more could be on their way out in a few months, with Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter playing on expiring deals and Harrison Smith taking a salary cut in the last offseason.

Vikings Should Make One Guy an Offseason Priority

In addition to that, Justin Jefferson will enter the final year of his rookie deal, and contract talks should resume. Christian Darrisaw will also be eligible to receive a contract extension, and keeping elite players around is the main focus of Adofo-Mensah.

make one guy
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After years of offseason contract disputes, it is time to finally give Hunter another contract. Rick Spielman drafted him in the third round in 2015, and the defender has been with the organization ever since. After a couple of seasons as a rotational player, he took on a major role in the scary 2017 defense, slowly usurping the aging left end Brian Robison.

He then signed a five-year $72 million contract in 2018. That is a lot of money, but it turned out to be a team-friendly deal for a player of his caliber. In the last few years, his contract was a massive talker every year, ending in a holdout at the beginning of this year’s training camp. Hunter eventually received a salary boost and is currently on a $17 million contract in 2023.

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Once the season concludes, the Vikings are scheduled to lose their stalwart defender to free agency unless they agree to a new contract. The Vikings can not use the franchise tag on the former LSU standout.

But that shouldn’t even be necessary. A longtime player of the organization has been playing at an elite level, and therefore, his contract should be a no-brainer and the priority for the general manager. Losing the best defender doesn’t make sense in the competitive rebuild strategy.

Hunter has played 114 games in the NFL, all while wearing a Vikings uniform. He has produced 84.5 sacks in his career, made 439 tackles, 103 for a loss. One of the most productive pass-rushers in the NFL, Hunter has been to three Pro Bowls.

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He has also been fairly durable in his career, besides back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021 when a herniated disc and a torn pec kept him out of all but seven games. After those campaigns, it was questioned if the Jamaican-born defender would return to his Pro Bowl-level play.

And indeed, it took him a few games in 2022 after a position change. 2023 might be his best season yet, as he leads the league with 13.5 sacks, tied with T.J. Watt while providing phenomenal play against the run. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores has been complimentary of his star defender all year, and he keeps dominating up front.

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat (98) during second-half action at Ford Field Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

The edge-rusher market has evolved, and Hunter will not be cheap. Chicago’s GM Ryan Poles just traded for and then signed defensive end Montez Sweat to a huge contract. He received a four-year contract with an average salary of $24.5 million. While Sweat is a couple of years younger, he is not quite the level of player Hunter is. Packers linebacker Rashan Gary signed a four-year contract with an annual salary of almost $27 million.

Nick Bosa is the league’s highest-earning pass rusher at $34 million annually, followed by Watt, for whom the Steelers pay roughly $28 million annually. Hunter’s salary would likely be close to that. Regardless, he has earned every penny and deserves to continue his fabulous run in Minnesota.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt