Danielle Hunter Suddenly Noncommittal on Free Agency Outlook

Future in Minnesota Should
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have two huge names in the free agency pool. Pro Bowl defender Danielle Hunter and quarterback Kirk Cousins will be hot commodities in March when they can choose their next team. But general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can still opt to re-sign one or both of his stars, although the price tag could be beefy.

Danielle Hunter Suddenly Noncommittal on Free Agency Outlook

Suddenly Noncommittal
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is sacked hard by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second quarter of the NFL Week 15 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at PayCor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

After the season ended, Hunter was asked if he would like to continue to play for the Vikings. He simply replied with two words: “Yes, Sir.”

Well, he suddenly doesn’t sound so sure about that anymore, talking about his future during the Pro Bowl practice on Friday.

Just letting everything play its course. I did my job. Everything’s in my agent’s hands and my team — and whomever it is that’s out there. My job, like I said, is to do my job. And I’m gonna make sure I stay in shape and whatever is best available for me, I’ll take that.

Danielle Hunter

The four-time Pro Bowler has been the heart and soul of Minnesota’s defense for years as the top player on the unit. But his 2023 season may have been his best one yet, producing 16.5 sacks and 83 combined tackles–both career-highs. The sacks ranked him fifth in the league, and his 23 tackles for loss topped all defenders in the NFL.

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He is a force at getting to the passer but also in the running game, making him a complete edge-rusher without any weaknesses. But the defender knows that he isn’t doing it alone. His pals help him tabulate such great numbers.

Just doing my job. I take pride in doing what I do. It wasn’t just me alone, my teammates, defensive coordinator put me in the best position to make plays for my team. Like I said, wish I could do more, like making us going to the playoffs.

Danielle Hunter

Flores has indeed found a way to utilize his top player, who started as a 4-3 defensive end in Mike Zimmer’s scheme. When Ed Donatell arrived, the former LSU prospect officially became a 3-4 outside linebacker. Those positions are virtually the same on the field outside of some minor differences. The stance might change, or the exact spot to line up in.

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His official position changed, but the production stayed. Outside of a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2020 and 2021, Hunter has never missed a game in his career, and in his last four fully healthy seasons, he produced a total of 56 sacks. He added: “Staying in shape, doing my part, and then when the time comes, my agent or the Vikings, they’ll come to a decision. We’ll see what’s best when the time comes.”

The Vikings should do everything in their power to keep the 29-year-old on board, as the outside linebacker room is quite the nightmare with only fourth-year player Patrick Jones and 2023 undrafted rookie Andre Carter under contract.

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D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport join Hunter as free-agent prospects. Having two quality edge rushers is critical for every defense, and Brian Flores’ scheme is no different. The Vikings must make sure to give him a pair of solid edge players. Adofo-Mensah might re-sign one or two of his free agents, but looking at some different players on the market or adding draft prospects could also be an option.

In 119 games with the Vikings, Hunter recorded 87.5 sacks and 462 tackles (108 for loss). At age 29, he will probably sign a final big contract, and he deserves it. It remains to be seen if he and the Vikings can find common ground or if his NFL journey will take him to a different employer in 2024.

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