Purple Rumor Mill: Justin Fields and Vikings, Hunter’s Price, Cam Akers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

VikingsTerritory’s Purple Rumor Mill is a two-day chronicle each week. All the week’s rumors are lassoed and plopped in two spots — articles on Saturday and Sunday — for review. Today is the January 20th edition.

Purple Rumor Mill: Justin Fields and Vikings, Hunter’s Price, Cam Akers

Remember — rumors are rumors. What you read on weekends in these pieces is what the world is talking about about the Vikings, not necessarily items that will come to fruition.

Here’s the first batch of the week.

Rumor: Justin Fields could end up in Minnesota if the Chicago Bears opt to draft Caleb Williams with the 1st overall pick.

Justin Fields and
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s not terribly realistic for the Vikings to end up with Fields as QB1 in 2024. He’s currently employed by Minnesota’s second-foremost foe, the Bears, and Chicago sending him to Minnesota is a longshot.

But don’t tell that to one Illinois sportsbook.

Illinois Bet published odds last week, “Overall, the Falcons come in at +475 to land Fields via a trade, beating out the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders (at +900 apiece). The Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers follow, tied at +1200. There’s also a 40% (+150) chance that Fields and the Bears ink a long-term extension.”

Here’s an organized look at the theoretical odds if Fields ventures to a new team:

  • Atlanta Falcons (+475)
  • New England Patriots (+900)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (+900)
  • Denver Broncos (+1200)
  • Minnesota Vikings (+1200)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (+1200)
  • Other/Stay with Bears (+150)

Bears general manager Ryan Poles said last week about the team’s impending choice about trading Fields or choosing a new quarterback with the 1st overall pick, “I’ve got to stay open-minded about it. Not to use the same quote, but when I say, ‘I need to be blown away,’ it’s the same setup because seeing the things that Justin did this year, his ability to make plays … keeping his eyes down the field, taking less sacks, you see a lot of growth there where he can continue to get better. So I’ll have the same mindset.”

The theory is this, summarized: If the Bears indeed draft Caleb Williams from USC, Fields can’t really stick around, and some team will trade for his services. Oddsmakers believe that could be Minnesota.

Rumor: Danielle Hunter will probably return to the Vikings, and his contract won’t approach Nick Bosa-like pricing.

Caveat about Danielle
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Pro Football Focus recently projected the league’s Top 100 free agents, and Hunter checked in at No. 12, sandwiched between Michael Pittman (WR, Indianapolis Colts, No. 11) and Mike Evans (WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, No. 13). And price was the surprising part, at least per PFF’s estimation.

The sports-grading outfit suggested Hunter will sign a three-year agreement for $65 million — also known as $21.7 million annually. The NFL’s highest-paid EDGE earns $34 million per season, Nick Bosa, for the San Francisco 49ers. Usually when a new league year arrives, player salaries increase incrementally, but Hunter remaining with the Vikings or signing elsewhere for $21.7 million per year would contradict the typical pattern.

For team-building purposes, a Hunter reunion for three years and $65 million would be quasi-affordable if not perfect. He notched a career year in 2023, his age-29 season, tabulating 16.5 sacks, a career-high. That mark ranked fifth leaguewide, trailing T.J. Watt (19.0), Trey Hendrickson (17.5), Josh Allen (17.5), and Khalil Mack (17.0). Paying Hunter the 10th-highest salary in the sport would be a steal of a deal, especially by the time the contract neared expiration. In 2026, $21.7 million annually for someone of Hunter’s caliber will be a bargain.

Reporters asked Hunter earlier this month if we wanted to stay in Minnesota. He replied succinctly, “Yes, sir.”

So, we expect something similar to PFF’s theory to ring true.

Rumor: Cam Akers wants to remain a Viking, and he’ll do precisely that.

for cam akers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Akers is scheduled to hit free agency in March, and Vikings fans have wondered in the last few weeks if he’ll return.

Left up to him, the answer is yes. A prominent Vikings-themed account on Instagram, Vikes Verified, posed the question, “Will the Vikings reach a deal with RB Cam Akers this offseason? Akers showed explosiveness in a minimal role this season, & is still just 24 years old. Coming off a torn Achilles, it appears Cam is progressing much ahead of schedule, which is no surprise after he CAME BACK in just 6 months for the Rams playoff run in 2021- 2022. Not only did he come back, he was a significant piece on that championship team. Would you bring Akers back in 2024?”

Wouldn’t you know it? Akers found his way to the post, and replied, “I think so.”

The Vikings ranked 27th leaguewide per rushing DVOA in 2023, an underwhelming mark after emphasizing ground-game improvement all last offseason. Eyeing 2024, the Vikings will presumably prioritize improvement again in that aspect of the offense, and if Akers gets his wish, he’ll be a part of the RB room.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.