A Danielle Hunter Contract Extension Won’t Be Cheap

Does Pro Bowl
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are on contract watch for a couple of their top players. Justin Jefferson is widely expected to sign a record-breaking wide receiver contract after having the best start of any wide receiver in NFL history. The expectations for him are once again sky-high. Besides Jefferson, there’s another star who deserves a new deal.

A Danielle Hunter Contract Extension Won’t Be Cheap

Danielle Hunter joined the Vikings in the 2015 draft as a third-rounder coming out of LSU after a college career without much production. Former general manager Rick Spielman banked on his freakish athleticism. There aren’t many humans walking on the planet with Hunter’s explosiveness at 260 pounds. And Spielman was right.

danielle hunter contract
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The former LSU defender had the problem that the Vikings already employed Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, one of the top edge rushing duos in the NFL. He was a rotational pass rusher in his debut season but still managed to record six sacks and increased that number to 12.5 in 2016, still without starting a game in that season.

That changed in 2017 when he officially took over for Robison. In the next three years, Hunter had 36 sacks and signed a $72 million contract. It turned out to be a team-friendly agreement for the defender, who started his career at a historic pace.

That changed in 2020 when he was forced to miss the entire campaign with a herniated disk. In 2021, Hunter played only seven games because of a torn pectoral muscle, but he still recorded six sacks.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

After two slow years because of injuries, Hunter returned to his top form in 2022 when he sacked QBs 10.5 times. He ranked in the top 10 in pressures and hurries despite learning a new defense and position. The three-time Pro Bowler (including 2022) is only 28 years old and needs a new contract.

He has not been at OTAs, but those workouts are voluntary, and he doesn’t want to risk another injury. A player shouldn’t be blamed for that. Hunter is due to get paid $5.5 million in 2023, a comical salary for such a great player. It will be the final year of his contract.

Brad Spielberger from PFF projected the contract extensions of some veterans, including Hunter.

As a result of Hunter’s contract reworking over the 2021 offseason, he’s currently set to earn just $5.5 million in 2023, and it would come as a major surprise if he reports to the facility before that number jumps dramatically. Hunter finally had a fully healthy season after missing a lot of time over 2020-2021. His 905 snaps were a career high and his 18.4% pass rush win rate was a top-20 mark among edge rushers.

Brad Spielberger

Spielberger’s projection: Three years, $67.5 million ($22.5 million per year), $37.125 million guaranteed

Among Many Items
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The average salary of $22.5 million would rank him 6th in the NFL among edge rushers, but he will likely be topped later in the offseason by Nick Bosa and Brian Burns, who are also due to sign new contracts.

Spielberger also names a potential holdup in the negotiations:

A hold-up in negotiations could be whether the 2023 year remains and new years are tacked on, or the two sides rip the old contract up and start fresh.

Odds are, Hunter does not want to simply add on to a season with a $5.5 million cash outlay and, thus, agree to a deal that is far smaller in overall value. Here, we are projecting a brand-new three-year contract that runs through 2025, when Hunter will be 31 years old, and he could still sign another deal.

Brad Spielberger

The Vikings have some cap space left, roughly $9 million, and could add some more by dealing running back Dalvin Cook. Hunter deserves a new deal, and the Vikings would be wise to make it happen, considering their defensive struggles. They can’t afford to lose their best defender.

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