If Danielle Hunter Is Leaving, This Guy Should Replace Him

Explained: The Interesting State of the Vikings thru 14 Weeks
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On top of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s offseason to-do list should be Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. Both have been staples of the organization and are about to enter free agency because the GM hasn’t given them new deals for the upcoming season. The Vikings must either extend their contracts or try to replace them in the draft or free agency.

If Danielle Hunter Is Leaving, This Guy Should Replace Him

If Danielle Hunter Is Leaving, This Guy Should Replace Him
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But replacing them won’t be easy by any means. Pro Bowl-level quarterbacks like Cousins are, in fact, pretty much impossible to replace as the free-agent QBs are usually ousted players from other organizations, guys that are closer to backup status than starting caliber. The draft is probably the better place to look for a successor for Cousins, but that requires some patience to develop the guy.

Defender Hunter is a different story. Edge-rushers can be found in free agency, although the top guys never come close to that with contract extensions or the franchise tag. This year will be another case of that as Brian Burns and Josh Allen, the top pass-rushers other than Hunter, are expected to draw the franchise tag if they can’t reach an agreement with the teams.

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That leaves the second wave of pass-rushers, but some decent players are in that group. Chase Young, a former second-overall pick slowed down by injuries, could be a candidate for the Vikings, as he has flashed excellence when healthy. But his injuries would make this a Marcus Davenport situation 2.0.

Another target, no, the target, should be Bryce Huff, a 25-year-old defender from the New York Jets. Huff is the prime example of a player who needs the opportunity to show if his fabulous numbers are for real or just the product of a beneficial environment.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) tries to get around New York Jets linebacker Bryce Huff (47).

The top two edge-rushers in PFF’s pass-rush win rate are Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons, two guys on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Guess who is third, right over Nick Bosa, Aidan Hutchinson, and Trey Hendrickson? Right, free agent Huff. The presence of only great pass-rushers at the top of the list is a great sign of how trustworthy the statistic is.

Compared to those other guys, Huff is an unsung player, flying under the radar as he is stuck in a rotational role. The Jets employ a plethora of fantastic pass-rushers, and he is in a rotation with John Franklin-Meyers and Jermaine Johnson.

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The fact that Huff led the league in pass-rush win rate a year ago proves that he isn’t just a one-year wonder. He is simply an excellent player whose production was limited because of a logjam. However, he still recorded 10 sacks in 2023. The one area of his game where he can’t replace Hunter is his performance in the rushing defense, but he is a force at getting after the quarterback.

Pro Football Focus projects his new deal worth $50 million for three seasons. The annual payment would currently rank him 16th in the NFL.

The Vikings should attempt to retain Hunter, but if they can’t do that, replacing him by adding a player with massive potential is the way to go instead of trusting the remaining outside linebackers on the roster, Patrick Jones and Andrew Carter, paired with a rookie and some underwhelming free agents.

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