It is rare that trade business is done within a division, but new faces in the front offices of the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings could change that — especially if the deal benefits both parties.
The Bears still need more help rushing the passer if they have aspirations of clearing .500 in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild. The Vikings are paying between $17-$20 million for an outside linebacker in Danielle Hunter who doesn’t appear to be part of the team’s long-term future.
A trade in which the Bears flip their 2024 second-rounder to Minnesota in exchange for Hunter, then extend the three-time Pro Bowler long-term made sense before Chicago signed Yannick Ngakoue and while Hunter and the Vikings were embroiled in a contract dispute. It still makes sense now.
Trading OLB Danielle Hunter Best Option for Vikings in Most Scenarios
Chicago finished last in the NFL in sack production in 2022, posting just 20 sacks as a team. The additions of Ngakoue and DaMarcus Walker add 16.5 sacks from last season to the equation, which raises the Bears’ pass-rush floor but doesn’t accomplish much in the way of creating an elite ceiling.
The Vikings bumped Hunter’s pay up to $17 million guaranteed, and $20 million with incentives, via a one-year raise, but second-year general manager Kwesi Adofo Mensah added zero years to the OLB’s contract. That decision says more than nothing about the front office’s views on Hunter’s future in Minnesota.
Coming off of a 10.5-sack performance and a Pro Bowl selection in 2022, Hunter maintains legitimate trade value entering his age-29 season. And considering Adofo-Mensah’s recent history, moving the edge rusher at, or before, the NFL’s mid-season trade deadline feels more likely than not — save for a monster start to the year from Hunter that catapults the Vikings into legitimate contention.
“The Minnesota Vikings have actively been moving on from quality veterans this offseason,” Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report wrote on Wednesday, September 6. “Hunter is entering the final year of his contract, and if Minnesota struggles early, he could be the next star to go.”
The Vikings can save $11.5 million against the 2023 salary cap if they move Hunter, which will help the team extend All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Beyond that, Minnesota can get a second-round pick, and perhaps more, by trading Hunter.
Adofo-Mensah authored a deal during his first campaign as GM that shipped a draft haul to the Detroit Lions in return for T.J. Hockenson. It was a gutsy move that paid off, as the Vikings just extended the tight end on a record contract at his position.
Shipping Hunter to Chicago would put the Vikings on the opposite end of the equation, receiving draft capital at the price of a star. Still, the hypothetical deal reads as one that is up Adofo-Mensah’s alley, and one which he wouldn’t be afraid to make if he thought it in his franchise’s best interests.
Bears Should Consider Trading for Danielle Hunter if Team Views Him as Long-Term Prospect
For the Bears, it really comes down to how serious they are about competing in a winnable NFC North Division and whether general manager Ryan Poles views Hunter as a viable long-term prospect.
Hunter has been a Pro Bowler in three of the last five seasons. The two in which he wasn’t were marred by injury. The OLB tore a pectoral in 2021 after tallying six sacks through seven games. He missed the entirety of the prior year due to a neck injury sustained during the preseason.
Were Chicago to acquire Hunter, he would walk onto a young and improved defense as its best edge-rusher, even despite seven straight seasons of eight sacks or more for Ngakoue.