This Defender Would Be a Homerun Signing for Vikings

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) tries to get around New York Jets linebacker Bryce Huff (47). © Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins and defender Danielle Hunter highlight Minnesota’s 2024 free agent class. Both went to four Pro Bowls and have been foundational pieces for the Vikings. However, their contracts are about to expire, and it is quite realistic that they will open new career chapters unless they sign a lucrative extension.

This Defender Would Be a Homerun Signing for Vikings

be a homerun
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General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might want to kickstart a new era of Vikings football, and finding the future quarterback is paramount. Hunter could join a franchise willing to pay a premium for outstanding pass-rush and run support, making it hard for the GM to match those salaries.

While finding talented pass-rushers in the draft is possible, acquiring a passer might be the priority. Hunter’s potential departure could be a bigger problem. The Vikings employ Andre Carter and Patrick Jones at his position. They are backups, depth players who haven’t shown enough to be more than an OLB4 at best. The preferred mix is having two starters ahead of them, like Hunter and Marcus Davenport, and a solid backup in D.J. Wonnum.

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Wonnum and Davenport are also free agents, and the current state of the outside linebacker spots is a disaster. Signing someone who can lead an inexperienced group is critical for the 2024 defense overseen by defensive coordinator Brian Flores. The good news is that a talented guy is available: Former New York Jets defender Bryce Huff.

Huff is relatively young for a free agent at age 25. He will turn 26 in April and has four years of experience. Playing in 54 games with the Jets, he tabulated 17.5 sacks, 65 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. None of that sounds impressive. Hunter had better numbers than that just last season.

The magic appears when looking at the details. He did that damage in a limited role, comparable to Hunter’s timeshare with Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. After adding context to those statistics, he suddenly is an outstanding free agent candidate for Minnesota.

Agent Target
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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? Correct, 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.

The next thing to explore is if that number was just a one-year wonder. The fact that Huff led the league in pass-rush win rate a year ago proves it wasn’t. 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.

No Franchise Tag
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Because his overall production can’t match that of the stars in the game, there is a chance to acquire a player with plenty of potential for relatively cheap money. PFF projects him to sign a three-year deal worth $50 million total. Players like Jacksonville’s Josh Allen and Carolina’s Brian Burns should command $25 million per season.

Even if the Vikings manage to retain Hunter for 2024, pairing him with Huff to form a scary duo is a decent idea. In case Hunter exits Minnesota, he can’t just be replaced by a rookie who needs time to develop and the backups on the roster. Someone must take over the top pass-rush job, and the former Jets defender would be a wonderful solution.

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