The Prediction on Danielle Hunter’s Status with Vikings

Hunting Hunter
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Five years ago, before blossoming into superstardom, Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter signed a five-year, $72 million contract with then-GM Rick Spielman.

And as a relative oddity in sports, especially for a talent of Hunter’s caliber, the 28-year-old is close to playing out that entire contract.

The Prediction on Danielle Hunter’s Status with Vikings

Hunter signed the contract just as he was morphing into a true pass-rushing monster, and it was a wonderful deal at the time for Hunter and the Vikings. Then, injuries arose two years later, shelving Hunter for the entirety of the pandemic season, 2020, and half of the 2021 campaign. Thereafter, he had little leverage for a new contract because two iterations of Vikings management wanted to ensure Hunter was back, healthy, and ready to go.

Prediction on Danielle
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Well, Hunter answered any naysayers last season, playing all 17 games and acclimating to a 3-4 defense for the first time in his career. The LSU alumnus was back to his old self, ranking as the NFL’s seventh-best EDGE defender per Pro Football Focus. Indeed, Hunter is “back” and scheduled to earn just $5 million in “new money” this season. That likely doesn’t sit well with him or his agent.

Therefore, for about the fourth straight offseason, fans wonder, “What will happen with Hunter?” The Vikings are over the hump of free agency and the NFL draft, so it’s time to get contract matters squared away with Hunter — and Justin Jefferson + T.J. Hockenson.

Explained: WAS-MIN Preview with Santana Moss and Bryant McKinnie
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota is unlikely to let Hunter depart the franchise, meaning an extension is probably in the works. In theory, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could trade Hunter — but why would the man in charge of a team with a suspect defense get rid of his best defensive player? It doesn’t make sense. For context, if the Vikings trade Hunter after June 1st, they’d eat $7.6 million in dead cap while saving $5.5 million. Is that worth it to move on from Hunter? Not really.

KSTP’s Darren Wolfson predicted this week that Hunter would remain a Viking with an uptick in pay. He said on the Mackey and Judd Show Thursday, “I still think the Vikings end up ultimately giving Danielle some sort of raise. I see Danielle Hunter here in 2023.”

Explained: What to Expect against the Dolphins
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

“I continue to not see Dalvin Cook here in 2023. Za’Darius, I would say that’s the one where there is some uncertainty. I think the Vikings would love to find a way to have Za’Darius on this roster in 2023, so I think there are still some things to figure out on that front. But I do think Dalvin ends up elsewhere. I think Danielle Hunter is here,” Wolfson added.

Wolfson’s message about Hunter is consistent, too, telling the same podcast last month, “I did hear that Brian Flores is really really pumped up to coach Danielle; that Danielle, it’s mutual, is pumped up to play under Brian Flores. So, do the Vikings find a way to give him some sort of bump, extend him? I think that will play out come May and June, maybe into July.”

The Vikings ranked 27th per defensive DVOA in 2022, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. The club somehow still won 13 games in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s first season, but defense has been labeled by everyone everywhere as the thing that needs improvement.

Because Hunter is the team’s top defensive performer, coupled with Wolfson’s intel, expect the Vikings to finagle an extension with the defender before too long.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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