Vikings Only Have 2 Pro Bowlers this Season

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

It has been a disappointing season for the Minnesota Vikings who had high expectations for themselves after going 13-4 in 2022, the first year of the new regime. Through 16 games, the playoff chances dropped to roughly 3% after losing five of the last six matchups. Those underwhelming numbers obviously play a role when it comes to accolades.

Vikings Only Have 2 Pro Bowlers this Season

Not only did they have 13 wins last season, but they also sent seven players to the Pro Bowl games. This year, with only seven wins, that number dropped to two with some snubs and injuries clearly derailed a couple of other Pro Bowl campaigns.

Andrew DePaola

Long snappers rarely get much credit but Andrew DePaola’s career has taken off in the last 12 months with his first two invitations to the Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro nomination last season. And it was very close to never happening.

Vikings Only Have 2 Pro Bowlers this Season
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He came into the league as an undrafted player in 2012 out of Rutgers but it took him some time to make his regular season debut. The Buccaneers signed him during their training camp but waived him a few weeks later. One season later, he was once again cut before the season started.

In his third try, DePaola finally made the team and made his debut for the Buccaneers in 2014. He was the long snapper in Tampa Bay for three seasons before he was cut. The veteran joined the Chicago Bears in 2017 and played for the Raiders in 2018. Unfortunately, DePaola tore his ACL in Week 1 and didn’t play another snap for two years.

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The Vikings finally gave him a shot in November 2020 because their long snapper Austin Cutting struggled. DePaola has played in every game for Minnesota since Week 11 in 2020 and he is an outstanding example of an athlete that never gave up and ultimately was rewarded for his hard work and persistence.

The 36-year-old signed a three-year contract extension last offseason, worth over $4 million with more than $1.5 million guaranteed, making it the highest guarantee for a long snapper in the NFL, at least for a short moment until someone else had his contract re-done.

Danielle Hunter

Danielle Hunter has been an outstanding player for the Vikings ever since Rick Spielman drafted him in 2015, taking a shot at a physical specimen without much college production. It took him a couple of years as a part-time player behind defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen to crack the starting lineup but his sack totals have always been impressive.

How Far Can Danielle
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.

It is his fourth Pro Bowl nomination after 2018, 2019, and 2022. The two-year absence in 2020 and 2021 was because of injuries that threatened his tenure with the Vikings. A herniated disc forced him to miss the full 2020 season and a torn pec limited him to only seven games in 2021.

Many doubted if he could ever get back into shape and expected him to be injury-prone for the remainder of his career. Well, so far, they have been wrong as he hasn’t missed a game, playing in all 18 contests last season and in the 16 games this year.

He managed to collect 15.5 QB sacks in 2023, a career-high and he has been a force at getting after the quarterback but also in stopping the run.

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Once free agency arrives in March, Hunter is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Unless the Vikings extend his contract with a massive salary, he won’t be back with the organization after spending the first eight years here, tabulating 86.5 sacks.

Alternatives

The Vikings have two sure Pro Bowlers and a bunch of alternatives that would replace injured players or those who participate in the Super Bowl.

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C.J. Ham and T.J. Hockenson were named top reserve. If the 49ers reach the Super Bowl and fullback Kyle Jusczczyk can’t partake, Ham will be the next man up. Hockenson’s season-ending knee injury would prevent him from taking the place of George Kittle or Sam LaPorta.

Safety Josh Metellus is the second alternative, Garrett Bradbury third, and Christian Darrisaw and Harrison Smith fourth.

Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins perhaps could’ve made a run but injuries prevented them from putting up big numbers this season.


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

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