3 Reasons Why a Danielle Hunter Trade Makes Sense

Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFC linebacker Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings (99) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Danielle Hunter is set to earn a salary of only $5.5 million in 2023 and is understandably frustrated about that. The 28-year-old wants one more big deal before his career comes to an end and is unlikely to suit up for the Vikings on his current contract or a one-year band-aid agreement.

3 Reasons Why a Danielle Hunter Trade Makes Sense

Reasons Why
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) tackles New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has two options. He can extend his best defender or trade him away. Forcing him to play on his bargain contract is not a viable option, as it would hurt the locker room and the excellent culture brought by the new regime. The reasons to keep him are obvious, as he is a fantastic player, and every defense in the league is better off with than without Hunter. But what are the reasons for a transaction that would leave the Vikings without him? That is an interesting question, and even Hunter fans should consider the advantages.

Salary Cap

The NFL’s salary cap space is limited. For that reason, NFL teams must be smart about who they are investing their money in. A new Hunter contract will likely pay him as a top 10 edge rusher, as his demands should be somewhere between $20-25 million.

T.J. Watt is the highest-paid pass rusher at $28 million a year, followed by Joey Bosa’s $27 million. Myles Garrett’s $25 million. Former Raider Khalil Mack and current Raiders star defender Maxx Crosby are each getting paid $23.5 million per season, and Bradley Chubb signed for $22 million annually.

Vikings Not in Top
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

$20 million per season would place Hunter at the seventh spot, tied with Von Miller. A big contract for Hunter and one for Justin Jefferson would use about a fourth of the overall salary cap without paying a quarterback. The Vikes also pay Brian O’Neill, are expected to extend T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darriaw will surely command north of $20 million. It would take away a lot of flexibility from the organization. Paying a top free agent big bucks, trading for an available quarterback, or a Kirk Cousins extension would simply not be possible.

Age and Injuries

Hunter will turn 29 on October 29. Athleticism usually declines in the late-20 and injuries rise. He may have a few more years left, but there is the risk involved in paying a lot of money for a player who could lose a step or isn’t available because of injuries.

The defender has been decent in 2022, ranking in the top 10 in QB pressures and hurries. However, he missed all but seven games in 2020 and 2021 because of a herniated disc and a torn pectoral muscle. The herniated disc that cost him the full 2020 campaign could be a lingering issue down the road.

Khalil Mack turned 29 before the 2021 season began and missed all but seven games. He was traded to the Chargers, where he was still a good player but not his prime All-Pro caliber self. JJ Watt played in less than nine games in four of his last seven seasons. Von Miller suffered severe injuries in 2020 and 2022. Football is a risky sport for every player, but aging ones are more susceptible to getting hurt.

Trade Compensation

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Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

The Vikings are expected to pursue a quarterback in the draft sooner rather than later. Those cost draft capital, especially the good ones with high potential and those who can be immediate impact players.

Trading away Hunter would weaken the 2023 Vikings and therefore help their draft position but also secure another draft pick in the process. That could be a second or even a first-rounder if teams enter a bidding war. The picks can be used to trade up for the guy Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell identify as their guy.

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