Trading Danielle Hunter Would Be Stupid
The NFL’s trade deadline is eight days away, as teams have until Halloween to decide if they’re buyers or sellers.
The Minnesota Vikings own a 2-4 record heading into Monday Night Football on October 23rd, and most foresee the club as a seller, although that’s basically just a collective theory.
Trading Danielle Hunter Would Be Stupid
And because quarterback Kirk Cousins has said he wouldn’t fancy a trade elsewhere in the middle of the season — he has a no-trade clause in his contract — trade attention has turned to outside linebacker Danielle Hunter and what he might fetch on the open market.
The Vikings are smack dab in the middle of a self-professed “competitive rebuild” after general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell were hired about 21 months ago to rectify the stale nature of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The twosome has since cut ties with aging veterans like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Eric Kendricks, to name a few. Correspondingly, many believe Hunter will be next.
But here’s why that idea is stupid.
No EDGE Rushers in 2024
Hunter is a free agent in under five months and can sign anywhere in the league.
His teammate, Marcus Davenport, is a free agent in under five months and can sign anywhere in the league.
What does this mean? Well, if Adofo-Mensah trades Hunter, he’ll enter the 2024 offseason staring at a roster with zero EDGE rushers, at least not starting-caliber ones. D.J. Wonnum is also a free agent in March, so Minnesota would have Patrick Jones and Andre Carter on tap for 2024 duty.
Adofo-Mensah would be forced to sign a free-agent pass rusher, draft one with high-round capital, and hope for the best. If he already knows he needs an EDGE rusher in 2024 — one would hope he knows that — why trade Hunter and start over?
Pass rushers will be required no matter what in 2024, and retaining Hunter — not trading him midseason — is the wisest choice to ensure the 2024 defense doesn’t descend to the depths of hell.
Trading Hunter would involve a team desperately needing EDGE rushers in 2024 trading EDGE rushers beforehand.
Hunter Isn’t Old
Hunter turns 29 in six days. Twenty-nine is old for a running back, but it is not old for an outside linebacker. For example, if Hunter re-signs with Minnesota in February or March, are fans really going to think, ‘What am I going do with this old-guy defender?”
Hunter’s next deal will probably fetch three or four years, ensuring the remainder of his career handsomely compensates him. If Hunter were 32 at the moment, offloading him to the highest bidder would have some oomph. Yet, he’s 28, and pass rushers don’t really decline until their early or mid-30s.
The Vikings would be trading Hunter at the absolute zenith of his career, as he led the NFL in sacks and tackles for loss heading into Week 7.
He’s shown no signs of slowing down, and a soon-to-be 29-year-old pass rusher ain’t old.
Hunter Fits Inside the Competitive Rebuild
If the Vikings trade Hunter in the middle of the 2023 season, there is no competitive in the competitive rebuild mantra. The aforementioned Davenport is out for the next four games, and if Hunter is shipped somewhere like the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Vikings will have zero starting pass rushers, probably until Davenport’s return.
Keeping Hunter — not trading him — guarantees the 2024 defense will have at least a little bit of promise, perhaps when the Vikings welcome a new quarterback. If Minnesota takes the plunge for a shiny new rookie quarterback, well, that’s the time to surround the youngster with tools to succeed — like a decent defense.
Hunter’s age, next-contract pricetag, and loyalty to the Vikings fit like a glove with Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild.
At the end of July, Hunter told a gallery of reporters, “I want to be a Viking forever.”
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).