Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter hasn’t said much in the months that NFL analysts have been floating his name in various trade rumors.
On Thursday, November 2, the star edge rusher explained why.
“People talked to me about it, but it was never really in the back of my mind. I always wanted to be here,” Hunter told reporters outside his locker. “Something always happens, and you don’t ask me, you ask them [general manager]. My job is to play football and that’s why I’m here. I’ve always loved doing what I do, so I don’t pay attention to outside noise.”
One year after retiring, Danielle Hunter has tense contract talks with the Vikings in the summer
Hunter’s tone didn’t indicate he was upset by the rumors surrounding him after the Vikings got off to a rocky 1-4 start. And it’s hard to argue that the Hunter deal wasn’t a logical path forward at the time.
The Vikings still have to navigate Hunter’s unrestricted free agency next spring, and there’s a good chance the franchise will lose him for nothing then. Hunter made his desire for a trade or a new contract clear throughout the summer. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was willing to go no further than increasing the fullback’s base salary from around $5 million to $17 million guaranteed in 2023, that number can rise to $20 million with incentives.
But then the Vikings experienced a revival of their campaign as quarterback Kirk Cousins led the team to a three-game winning streak. The calculus for Minnesota’s season changed dramatically, with its playoff chances increasing to well over 50%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). At that point, it no longer made sense to acquire the winningest pass rusher in football over eight weeks for a franchise with a clear path to back-to-back playoff appearances in the midst of a competitive rebuild.
Hunter leads the NFL in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (12). Pro Football Reference. He also created 17 QB pressures, forced 3 fumbles and recorded 2 pass breakups. The NFL named Hunter the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October on Thursday.
The loss of Kirk Cousins impacted the Vikings’ decision not to trade Danielle Hunter
With Cousins out, the Vikings’ playoff chances have fallen back to 50.5% as advanced metrics predict they will win 8.5 regular season games. per FPI.
An objective observer can analyze these numbers in two ways. The first is that Minnesota should have reconsidered the idea of a fire sale before Tuesday’s trade deadline, despite getting back to 4-4. Quarterback is the most important position in sports, and Cousins was on his way to becoming one third consecutive Pro Bowl selection. Now that he’s gone, the Vikings’ postseason ambitions appear to have gone with him.
The other perspective is that Minnesota’s defense, already much improved over the last year, will need to play even better to keep the team competitive through a series of winnable games against opponents like the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders.
Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell traded quarterback and NFL journalist Josh Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals to compete with rookie Jaren Hall for the starting job. Career backup Nick Mullens is also eligible to return from IR in Week 10 and could enter the fray at that time.
The Vikings’ offense is getting healthy as the QB competition looms
With All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson’s return to the active roster looming as early as Week 10, Minnesota should soon have a full complement of top pass-catching talent at their disposal for the QB emerging as the new starter. That fact, combined with the strength of the Vikings’ schedule for the next month and more, made keeping Hunter in Minnesota a priority – if it hadn’t already been done.
And like everyone else in the world, Adofo-Mensah reserves the right to change his mind. Specifically, this case is about a long-term contract for Hunter before the 2024 offseason. The outside linebacker will be just 30 years old next October and should be eligible for his fourth Pro Bowl selection in six years.
However, if Hunter wants to leave, there is nothing the Vikings can do about it as he will be released from the franchise clause as part of his renegotiated contract.
Max Dible covers the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He covered local and national news as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and served as news director for BigIslandNow.com and Pacific Media Group’s family of Big Island radio stations before joining Heavy. More about Max Dible
More heavy on Vikings News
More stories are loading
Harder on Vikings
More stories are loading