Danielle Hunter’s Asking Price Becomes More Mysterious

Danielle Hunter's Impact on Vikings Defense Is Flabbergasting
Dec 23, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) looks on prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter was absent from minicamp in June and appears ready to hold out of training camp next week.

The 28-year-old wants a contract extension, as his team-friendly deal officially expires at the end of the 2023 season.

Danielle Hunter’s Asking Price Becomes More Mysterious

And on Wednesday, his asking price became more mysterious after Pittsburgh Steelers EDGE rusher Alex Highsmith fetched a new deal. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted, “Sources: The Steelers and star pass-rusher Alex Highsmith have agreed to terms on a huge 4-year, $68M extension to pay him among the Top 10 highest paid edge rushers in the NFL. Coming off a career year with 14.5 sacks, Highsmith cashes in and PIT locks in a key player.”

Asking Price Becomes
Oct 23, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) warms up prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s $17 million per season for one of the NFL’s most productive pass rushers. The salary plops Highsmith around the league’s 10th highest-paid EDGE defender per average annual salary.

The implication for Hunter? Well, Highsmith’s deal may clarify Hunter’s current value. The top EDGEs in the business — Joey Bosa, T.J. Watt, and Myles Garrett — earn $25 million+ per year, and some believed Hunter could probably net a contract near or above $20 million annually.

Danielle Hunter Trade Rumors
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and Minnesota Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland (72) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, though, the Vikings front office can reasonably point to Highsmith’s extension and use $17 million annually as fair market value for Hunter. We shall see if he agrees.

Hunter is scheduled to earn just $5.5 million in ‘new money’ this season, an obvious point of contention for the player and his camp while winding down a team-friendly deal signed with former general manager Rick Spielman in 2018. Hunter could earn $20-$25 million annually — from somewhere — by the time the regular season rolls around. But if the Highsmith deal is the new standard in July, the $20-$25 million could be dialed back.

Status Is a Mixed
Dec 15, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) pressures Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

If no contract resolution is met, the Vikings would likely bank a 2nd-Round draft pick and change via trade for Hunter. He’d fetch a 1st-Rounder if he were a few years younger, but a trade sum in 2023 would probably be a 2nd-Rounder and a 4th-Rounder (or so) if the hypothetical trade involves draft capital only.

Trading Hunter, however, wouldn’t jibe with attempting to win a Super Bowl. Should Hunter join another team via trade, Minnesota may very well have 2024 and beyond as the goal in mind. The Vikings can’t expect to keep up a division-winning disposition by trading Hunter and Za’Darius Smith away from the league’s 30th-ranked defense (points allowed) in 2022. A team doesn’t improve a despicable defense by offloading the two best pass rushers. It’s backward.

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates the win after the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Talks between Hunter and the Vikings are expected to heat up this week, with training camp kicking off Sunday. His updated average annual value is likely between $17 and $22 million.

Hunter is a three-time Pro Bowler and earned 2nd-Team All-Pro accolades in 2018.

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.