It’s an Obvious Choice: CBS Sports Names Vikings 2023 MVP

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A disappointing 2023 season without a second consecutive playoff appearance led to an interesting offseason for the Minnesota Vikings. The purple team is scheduled to lose star players Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins in free agency unless they can extend their contracts. Holding the 11th overall pick, Minnesota could enter a new era if they move on from their longtime passer and select his successor in April’s draft.

It’s an Obvious Choice: CBS Sports Names Vikings 2023 MVP

obvious choice
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Despite some holes on the roster, the Vikes still have a solid team because of some high-end performers. Justin Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL, and an injury was the only thing that could slow him down. Minnesota employs two of the best in the business at offensive tackle–Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill. Those three guys, as well as T.J. Hockenson at tight end, make the Vikes an attractive landing spot for every passer.

Cousins was on pace to record career numbers in franchise record range until his Achilles tendon ruptured. Four Pro Bowl trips speak for themselves.

How Far Can Danielle
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is sacked hard by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second quarter of the NFL Week 15 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at PayCor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The offense has the firepower the defense lacks. But the organization’s 2023 MVP plays on that side of the ball. Edge-rusher Hunter was named Vikings MVP by Tyler Sullivan from CBS Sports.

Hunter was a cornerstone of Minnesota’s blitz-happy defense in 2023. The 29-year-old finished the year with 16.5 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss, both career highs. Those efforts saw Hunter be named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his career, and he was a big reason the Vikings stayed in the playoff race until late in the year. 

Tyler Sullivan

Hunter enjoyed a career-best season. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2022 and improved in QB pressures, sacks, forced fumbles, and run stops, resulting in another nomination for the Pro Bowl.

His competition was partially eliminated from the race by injury. Both Cousins and Jefferson missed too many games. Darrisaw might have been the second-best candidate, but Hunter’s impact on the field is easier to measure and see.

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The defender is the heart and soul of a defense that lacks difference-makers, regularly making a difference versus run and pass. His 16.5 sacks ranked him fifth in the league, and he tabulated those totals in a defense that featured a league-high frequency of blitzes, and those are combated by throwing short and quick passes.

Minnesota’s MVP entering free agency wouldn’t be ideal, as no real replacement is available. The Vikings only have Andre Carter and Patrick Jones under contract for another season at the important portion, giving Hunter some leverage.

However, the 29-year-old spoke after the season, and it sounded a lot like he would want to return: “It’s all I know. I came into this league, I don’t know any better. Purple. Ever since middle school, I’ve always been wearing purple. I’m here now. Purple.”

Future in Minnesota Should
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Whether the Vikings re-sign him or not, Hunter will command a large salary from his next team, perhaps north of $25 million. But he is one of the rare players who earned every penny of such a deal. The Vikes would be wise to explore a new contract with the pricey player. His desire to stick around is an immense benefit for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Hunter will turn 30 during his 10th NFL season but hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

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