Will Danielle Hunter Find Greener Pastures?

The Minnesota Vikings were faced with two massive decisions this offseason, and both Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter now find themselves employed by new organizations. After watching a fellow edge rusher leave, will Danielle Hunter find that the grass is greener?

Will Danielle Hunter Find Greener Pastures?

Za’Darius Smith came to the Minnesota Vikings as a scorned individual. He was unhappy with how the Green Bay Packers handled him and his injuries during his final season there. He wanted to sack former teammate Aaron Rodgers (don’t we all) and set a new standard. In his first and only season playing opposite Danielle Hunter, Smith excelled.

Danielle Hunter
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports.

Rather than sticking with Minnesota last season following the impressive statistical output, he forced his way out. Smith made it known he wouldn’t be playing in purple during 2023, and he wound up being traded to the Cleveland Browns. Joining a team quarterbacked by the drama-laden Deshaun Watson, Smith had what he thought was an inside track to the postseason.

After a season in which he recorded 10 sacks, of which many came early and often, the former Vikings edge rusher accumulated just 5.5 in 2023. It was a clear step backward, and while the Browns didn’t pay a ransom to grab his services, they were certainly hoping for more. Smith didn’t slow down any thoughts that he benefited from playing next to Hunter, and now, Cleveland has to hope there is more in the tank.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Hunter’s case is different because he didn’t force his way out. Of course, there was the expected raise that took place prior to the 2023 season, and while he did show up to training camp, there was no participation before the payday came. Hunter responded by putting up career numbers for Minnesota, and reaching free agency, he would always be looking to cash in.

Ultimately, the Vikings decided that keeping him wasn’t the best use of their resources, and the longtime fan favorite now gets to head home to Texas. Landing a two-year deal with the Houston Texans, Hunter gets $48 million of the $49 million deal as guaranteed cash. You certainly can’t fault a player for taking that sort of payday, and he certainly earned the signature on the bottom line.

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports.

Playing for a new team for the first time in his career, it will be interesting to see how Hunter fares with his new franchise. He has an injury history similar to Smith’s, and he will be looking to substantiate his performance last season with the Vikings. Monitoring his performance is something fans and the front office will likely do while evaluating whether the correct decision was made.


Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.

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