The Vikings 4 Next Steps if Danielle Hunter Is Traded

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

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter expects a new contract from the franchise, and if general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah isn’t in the mood to oblige, Hunter could be traded.

The Vikings ranked 30th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed last year, so trading Hunter while the team hopes to improve on defense seems upside down.

The Vikings 4 Next Steps if Danielle Hunter Is Traded

Still, there’s a chance $20-$25 million per season is too rich for Minnesota’s budget, and if Hunter is not extended, these are the four next steps at EDGE rusher, listed in no particular order.

1. Patrick Jones

The Vikings 4 Next
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Patrick Jones II (91) enters the field before the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Jones has played 405 defensive snaps in two seasons, a reasonable amount for a 3rd-Round draft pick. Former general manager Rick Spielman scooped Jones out of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he is one of the few surviving members from that class. Adofo-Mensah purged most of his draft-class peers.

He fired up a decent 62.5 Pro Football Focus grade in 2022 and often ‘looked the part’ on pass-rushing downs, especially during a game last October at Miami.

If the Vikings really love Jones — it’s a possibility — he could be the next man up in the event of a Hunter trade.

2. D.J. Wonnum

Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The same goes for Wonnum, although Vikings fans know more about Wonnum, a veteran entering his fourth year with the club.

Because Hunter was injured for half of the 2021 season and Everson Griffen departed soon after Hunter’s injury, Wonnum played 79% of defensive snaps that season. He also has 17 games of starting experience.

Wonnum doesn’t have a game-breaking effect like Hunter — few do — but in a pinch, he could spot-start for the Vikings in 2023. It is unclear if Minnesota would consider Wonnum the once-and-for-all solution at EDGE rusher this season. Maybe?

3. Free Agency

The Bears Have a Problem with One of Their Best Players
Sep 19, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Robert Quinn (94) celebrates after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports.

Perhaps the most likely option if Hunter is traded, the Vikings (and all NFL teams) have an impressive pass-rusher group to score via free agency:

  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Justin Houston
  • Melvin Ingram
  • Matthew Ioannidis
  • Carl Nassib
  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • Dawuane Smoot
  • Robert Quinn

Adofo-Mensah’s decision on Hunter comes down to this — is it better value to ink Hunter for $20+ million per season or one of the men listed above for $8 million or so for one or two years.

For example, if Hunter is traded, the Vikings could have absolute salary cap flexibility in 2024 and beyond while featuring Marcus Davenport and perhaps Yannick Ngakoue as outside linebackers in 2023. Hunter is clearly a better football player than these men but consider the big picture — because Adofo-Mensah is doing precisely that.

4. The ‘New Guy’ from a Hypothetical Trade

Sep 25, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Payton Turner (98) before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

A theoretical Hunter trade need not involve only draft picks. The Vikings could receive Chase Young (Commanders), Payton Turner (Saints), or Baron Browning (Broncos), for instance, in a Hunter trade.

Adofo-Mensah loves affordable players on rookie deals with high upside (T.J. Hockenson, Jalen Reagor), so perhaps he plucks the Hunter replacement directly from the trade.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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