Danielle Hunter’s Return Suddenly Sounds Less Certain

Danielle Hunter
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

For six months, Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter has stated his intent to return with the Vikings in 2024 and beyond, claiming a desire to be a Viking for life.

But he appeared to walk back that enthusiasm last weekend at the Pro Bowl.

Danielle Hunter’s Return Suddenly Sounds Less Certain

Of course, it’s not cause for panic, but Hunter sounded less certain about this future than usual in Orlando, partaking in the Pro Bowl Games.

Suddenly Sounds
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“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,” Hunter told NFL.com about his upcoming free agency.

The four-time Pro Bowler will become a free agent in five weeks, and sans an extension from the Vikings, Hunter could sign anywhere in the NFL and continue his quarterback terrorism elsewhere.

Defender Still Listed
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Hunter also mentioned his 2023 campaign, his best to date as a pro, “Just doing my job 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.”

Last month, with his future front and center in the Vikings offseason plans, reporters asked Hunter if we wanted to stay in Minnesota. He replied succinctly, “Yes, sir.”

“I went out there, did what I was told to do. I was excited about how I played this year,” Hunter mentioned about his performance this season.

Hunter recorded a career year in 2023, his age-29 season, tabulating 16.5 sacks, a career-high. That mark also ranked fifth leaguewide, trailing T.J. Watt (19.0), Trey Hendrickson (17.5), Josh Allen (17.5), and Khalil Mack (17.0). He also led the NFL in tackles for loss.

Career Game on Tap
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Almost as a mandatory decision — otherwise they’ll need an emergency alternative plan — the Vikings must re-sign Hunter. Entering the offseason, only Patrick Jones and Andre Carter are under contract for EDGE-rushing depth, and starting at next to zero would be a bizarre agenda. His next contract could fetch around $25 million per season, and Minnesota should oblige the asking price.

Hunter also said about his future in January, “It’s all I know. I came into this league, I don’t know any better. Purple. Ever since middle school, I’ve always been wearing purple. I’m here now. Purple.”

If the Vikings [oddly] weren’t interested in prolonging Hunter’s stay, he’d command the utmost interest in free agency. General managers salivate over productive pass rushers, and 16.5 sacks in a single season don’t grow on trees. What’s more, Hunter was the Vikings’ most consistent defensive player in a season when the defense, on the whole, was a total rollercoaster. The club began 2023 with a lousy first three games, became one of the top defenses in football from Weeks 4 through 14, and bottomed out at the worst possible time during the season’s final four games.

Danielle Hunter Is Back — Sort Of
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The takeaway? Well, Hunter has been guns-ablaze about staying with the Vikings since last summer. At the Pro Bowl, his words turned more judicious. It’s all likely part of the free-agent posturing, but Hunter’s comments were noteworthy because they shed light on his possible departure.

Hunter will turn 30 in October.

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.