Why the Vikings Would Trade Danielle Hunter

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday about the Minnesota Vikings probability of trading outside linebacker Danielle Hunter, “Here is my understanding of where it stands. Sources say that teams have been calling the Minnesota Vikings regarding Danielle Hunter. He has in fact generated some trade interest.”

Why the Vikings Would Trade Danielle Hunter

Therefore, the Hunter trade sweepstakes have officially arrived, although a trade is not mandatory. Rapoport’s musings merely indicate a trade is feasible.

And if the Vikings unload Hunter, here’s why they would do it.

1. Contract Ask Too Large

Would Trade Danielle
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

It wouldn’t be weird one iota if Hunter asked for a contract extension worth $25 million per season. For too long, Hunter has played out a team-friendly deal, and he has one big chance to cash in like his dominant pass-rushing peers.

Meanwhile, Minnesota must pay Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darrisaw in the next year. Much of the Vikings future salary cap is already spoken for. If one begins slicing up the pie chart, Hunter’s $20 to $25 million average annual value may not be a part of the ways and means of the Vikings future.

The takeaway? Hunter probably isn’t asking for a Marcus Davenport-like deal of $13 million. He’ll want close to double that amount per year.

2. Trade Package Could Be Used on QB of the Future

Overhauled Teams
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Current QB1 Kirk Cousins is under contract for one more season — this one. For the first time in the Vikings-Cousins relationship, the 34-year-old isn’t committed to the club for two years or longer. If general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is ready to draft ‘his guy’ at quarterback, the Cousins exit ramp has been paved.

And Adofo-Mensah will need trade capital to select a passer in the 2024 NFL Draft. Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina) won’t be available with the 16th overall pick next April, where the Vikings would draft if they had a poor season by their standards.

Adofo-Mensah could take the theoretical trade capital from the Hunter deal, package it with his organic 2024 1st-Round pick, add a bit more sweetener, and trade for the Vikings next QB1.

3. Hunter May Not Be in Plan for ‘Competitive Rebuild’

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Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) warms up during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans tend to think of Hunter in his 2016 or 2017 form — young, up-and-coming, and somewhat anonymous on the NFL’s radar. But none of that is true anymore. Hunter will turn 29 around Halloween, and there’s a chance that Adofo-Mensah doesn’t want to invest the aforementioned $25 million into a defender that is ‘old’ or one oft-injured in 2020 and 2021.

In this realm, Hunter simply wouldn’t be congruent with Adofo-Mensah’s definition of a competitive rebuild. For example, Adofo-Mensah has targeted affordable, short-term defenders this offseason, including Marcus Davenport — who plays Hunter’s position — and cornerback Byron Murphy. Hunter’s contract extension would shatter that strategy.

Perhaps the young Vikings executive envisions EDGE rushers not on the back end of their careers amid his competitive rebuild. It almost has to be the mindset if he’s willing to trade Hunter.

4. Plenty of FA Pass Rushers Available

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

No free-agent EDGE rusher on the open market is as prolific as Hunter. Let’s get that out of the way. However, these notable defenders are available at Hunter’s position:

  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Justin Houston
  • Melvin Ingram
  • Matthe Ioannidis
  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • Robert Quinn

Plus, Minnesota could value in-house EDGE rushers like Patrick Jones or Andre Carter II or perhaps examine the budding Chase Young trade sweepstakes with the Washington Commanders.

Hunter is a fabulous football player, but he is not utterly irreplaceable.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.