ESPN’s Offseason Predictions Are Sweet and Sour for Vikings

ESPN Has Frightening
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Explore and draft a quarterback while letting Danielle Hunter walk — those are the bold offseason predictions for the Minnesota Vikings, sponsored by ESPN.

Minnesota’s offseason kicked off 10 days ago after a road loss at the Detroit Lions, and the club must act with intelligence and efficiency to keep pace in a suddenly competitive NFC North.

ESPN’s Offseason Predictions Are Sweet and Sour for Vikings

Minnesota set sail on the 2024 offseason with two EDGE rushers under contract: Patrick Jones II and Andre Carter. And then that’s it. The aforementioned Hunter is scheduled to hit free agency, and if that occurs, Minnesota will need two starting outside linebackers unless it has odd and bold plans for Jones II and Carter II to outfit the starting lineup in 2024.

Predictions Are Sweet
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And according to ESPN’s Aaron Schatz, Hunter will likely exit stage left. “The Vikings will allow edge rusher Danielle Hunter to leave in free agency despite the fact he set a career-high with 16.5 sacks in 2023. Hunter’s cost will be too expensive going into his age-30 season (likely over $20 million per year), and Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will look to get younger on defense,” he opined.

Hunter joined the Vikings in 2015 and, in fact, is the last great defensive player drafted by the purple team. Per ESPN, the Vikings could let Hunter walk in March and start at zero on the OLB section of the depth chart. A bold strategy, indeed.

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ESPN is correct about the pricetag, though. Hunter will cost more than $20 million per season if he doesn’t take a humanitarian discount and should command closer to $25 million, if not more. Hunter finished fifth in sacks this season, trailing T.J. Watt (19.0), Trey Hendrickson (17.5), Josh Allen (17.5), and Khalil Mack (17.0).

Because Minnesota has no starting EDGE alternative, it might be a safer bet to assume Hunter will return on a three-year deal or so. He’s told reporters a few times since last summer that he hopes to remain a Viking for life. We shall see.

Is a Different Veteran QB Viable for the Vikings?
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At quarterback, well, ESPN’s Jordan Reid offered a bit more optimism, at least for the folks hoping Minnesota, alas, identifies and drafts a Kirk Cousins successor. “Whether or not Cousins returns, I wouldn’t rule out the Vikings looking quarterback early, though especially so if Cousins signs elsewhere. LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. could all be Round 1 options for the Vikings,” Reid explained.

The Vikings own the 11th overall pick in April’s draft, a decent spot to trade up the board or hang tight and choose from what’s available. Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), and Bo Nix (Oregon) are expected to go off the board in Round 1.

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Interestingly, the Vikings could do all three: Re-sign Hunter and Cousins while selecting a rookie quarterback. Creative salary cap navigation would allow it.

The 2024 NFL Draft kicks off in 99 days.

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).

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