Vikings Get Their Star Defender Back

Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

One of the most significant storylines in Vikings training camp has been resolved. The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a new deal with their top defender Danielle Hunter. According to Tom Pelissero, Hunter received a raise paying him $20 million in 2023 with $17 million guaranteed. He was scheduled to have a salary of only $5.5 million.

Vikings Get Their Star Defender Back

The Vikings Get Their Star Defender Back
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Pelissero’s full tweet: “The Vikings and three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Danielle Hunter agreed to terms on a new one-year deal worth $20 million, sources tell me and Ian Rapoport. Hunter gets $17M guaranteed and a no-tag clause, with a chance to earn a big payday next March.”

Some crucial things were mentioned. The obvious one is the raise. Hunter is now paid as the tied eighth-highest-paid pass rusher in the NFL, according to Overthecap—a fair salary for a player coming off a Pro Bowl season. He had a lot of leverage as the Vikings are trying to do a complete defensive overhaul and those are much easier with the top defender on the field instead of him standing on the sideline.

The news is quite surprising, especially since not even 24 hours before the deal got done, it was reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Vikes were willing to trade away Hunter, who performed a ‘hold-in’ which means he was in the building to escape the fines but was not participating in practices.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Ian Rapoport confirmed those rumblings right after the latest news broke: “It was a long road for Danielle Hunter and the Vikings, with all parties working months for a resolution. There were calls from teams interested in trading for Hunter. But the top option for coach Kevin O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was keeping him. They get it done.”

Another important part of Pelissero’s tweet is that the organization can not tag Hunter next offseason. That means either he receives a new contract or will hit free agency. The team can not use the franchise tag to prevent that from happening. Minnesota can’t use the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins either, so both stars have total control over their next destination.

Hunter is a crucial piece in the defensive puzzle overseen by new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. A good pass-rush is the start of every solid defense and the purple team should have a good one in the upcoming season. It was also the strong suit in 2022 but after the departure of Za’Darius Smith and Hunter’s potential trade, that strength was in jeopardy, although Kwesi Adofo-Mensah invested in Marcus Davenport in free agency.

Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports.

The three-time Pro Bowler produced 71 sacks in his career, including a total of 39.5 in his last three fully-healthy seasons. In 2021, Hunter still managed to record 6 sacks in only 7 games.

According to PFF, the defender ranked in the top 10 in QB pressures and QB hurries in the 2022 season among edge rushers. He also ranked in the top 20 in pass rush win percentage and racked up 10.5 sacks. Additionally, Hunter is an excellent run defender, as he had the 13th-best run-stop percentage of all edge defenders with at least 200 run-defense snaps. Hunter fired up all of that production despite having to learn a new position and some different techniques after the defense switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

Davenport and Hunter are asked to carry the defensive front and set the edge to make life harder for opposing offenses, and easier for the shaky defensive backs. Flores must be thrilled to get his star back and he should meet him on the practice field soon.

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