Danielle Hunter Was Nearly Traded

Hunting Hunter
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up Pro Bowl EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter for at least one more season Sunday, restructuring the deal with the 28-year-old for one year and $17 million.

The deal is expandable to $20 million with performance-based incentives.

Danielle Hunter Was Nearly Traded

But the new contract was not inevitable — not by a longshot — according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. There was real suspense about potentially trading Hunter, and it wasn’t just fan-driven hysteria.

Danielle Hunter Trade Rumors
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

Rapoport said Sunday on NFL Network airwaves, “This is a situation that could have gone either way. I know he was not happy.”

In the end, Hunter rejoins a Vikings team hoping to build on — and not regress from — a fabulous 2022 season. Minnesota finished 13-4 in 2022, winning the NFC North for the first time since 2017.

Hunter Was Nearly
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

“There were definitely times over the course of the last couple of months where I personally thought Hunter would be traded, but he’s not going anywhere and stays with the Vikings. A big win for the organization,” Rapoport added.

Rapoport wouldn’t offer the trade-infused thoughts haphazardly. He’s one of the most trusted sources in the industry.

The restructure arrived as Vikings faithful wondered for over six months if Hunter would be traded or extended, a decision that unmistakably impacts the 2023 season. Minnesota traded Pro Bowl EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns in May, so it makes sense now that Hunter would return — because why hope to improve a sticky 2022 defense by trading the two best pass rushers?

Lottery Ticket QB
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hunter will turn 29 this October and played all 17 games in 2022 after missing extended time in 2020 and 2021. He missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury and half of 2021 with a torn pectoral muscle. The LSU alumnus has hinted at an extension for about four straight offseasons, but the injury history made back-to-back Vikings general managers skeptical about the commitment. Then, Hunter showed up in 2022, acclimated to a 3-4 defense for the first time, and finished as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best EDGE defender.

Moreover, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has proceeded nimbly all offseason about players’ contracts, appearing to prefer short-term deals for younger players and jettisoning aging veterans who don’t have a projection to improve.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

And Hunter lived right on the bubble — still a Pro Bowl commodity viewed as a necessity in a new Brian Flores defense but also about 15 months from his 30th birthday.

Minnesota ultimately erred on the side of 2023 playoff contention rather than save-it-for-later salary cap flexibility in 2024 and beyond. In theory, Adofo-Mensah could’ve traded Hunter to the highest bidder for premium draft capital.

Now, though, if Hunter walks next March via free agency, the Vikings will likely receive a 3rd-Round pick as a compensatory selection.

And if Rapoport is correct, it was touch-and-go regarding Hunter’s future as recently as Saturday.

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.