Can the Vikings Afford to Lose Danielle Hunter?

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Coming into last season, the Minnesota Vikings EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter was looking for a bit of an upgrade regarding his pay scale.

Can the Vikings Afford to Lose Danielle Hunter?

Ultimately, the sides found an agreement that had him on the field to start the season. Now a free agent and looking for another payday, can the front office afford him, or worse, afford him to walk away?

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings saw just how invaluable Danielle Hunter is to their defensive front. It certainly wasn’t something they were previously unaware of, but a career year while getting virtually no help put him in a different category. After Marcus Davenport was signed to make up for the production lost from Za’Darius Smith, Minnesota was under the impression they had a talented pair. That may have been true had Davenport ever stayed on the field, but he couldn’t, and it was a one-man show all season long.

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Although players like D.J. Wonnum stepped up and worked opposite of Hunter, the Vikings’ top edge carried the load and got the job done. With a career-best 16.5 sacks to his credit, there were periods in which Wonnum looked the part of a candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. His 23 tackles for loss led the league, and his 83 total tacklers were a new career-high as well.

Set to play in his age-30 season when 2024 kicks off, Hunter will be looking for something like a three-year deal that pays him as among the best edge rushers in the game. That’s hardly an unfair stance, given the level of production he has provided to Minnesota since being drafted in the third round during the 2015 draft, but it’s also not going to come cheap. For a team with plenty of holes to fill and limited funds, the front office must do some finagling to retain Hunter’s services.

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While the quarterback position has been heavily talked about this offseason, and with good reason, as the departure of Kirk Cousins would be monumental, Hunter’s role is also of the utmost importance. Should the Vikings opt against paying their pass rusher, they would be starting back at zero when it comes to starting edge quality players.

Although Wonnum isn’t close to the same caliber, he is also a free agent, and the position is largely barren regarding internal options. Minnesota must decide the willingness to spend on Hunter and to what extent their walk-away point lies. No matter what, he is certainly a player they should engage with as long as he will continue the discussions.

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Like Cousins and Justin Jefferson, a payday for Hunter won’t be cheap, but it’s probably something the Vikings must find themselves doing. Brian Flores stepped in and took the defense to new heights. If that is to be replicated or expanded upon, he will need to be given the pieces capable of making it happen for a second year in a row. Hunter would go a long way toward solidifying that.

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.