Vikings Predicted to Use Cap Space on Underpaid Superstar

Danielle Hunter, Vikings

Getty Edge rusher Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings participates in drills during training camp in August 2022.

The Minnesota Vikings are in the process of clearing salary cap room, which could mean an extension for one of the team’s most crucial stars.

Edge rusher Danielle Hunter is entering the fifth and final season of a five-year, $72 million contract that will pay him only $5.5 million in salary and bonuses combined in 2023. That value is well below market price for a three-time Pro Bowler coming off of a double-digit sack season, and Hunter has flexed his muscle in response. The outside linebacker chose to sit out the first voluntary workouts of the season and deleted Vikings photos from his Instagram account back in April.

All may be forgiven should Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decide to pony up for the 28-year-0ld Hunter, which is what SB Nation’s Daily Norseman predicted on Wednesday, May 17, that the Vikings general manager will do.

“The Vikings will likely do some sort of contract extension with Danielle Hunter,” the Daily Norseman stated. “Given how little base salary Hunter has this season, any sort of an extension/bump in pay will likely eat up some of the Vikings’ salary cap space this year. Maybe $5-$10 million as an estimate, depending on how they want to structure the deal.”

Vikings Can Clear Cap Space by Trading, Cutting Dalvin Cook

GettyMinnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.

Minnesota was at the bottom of the league in cap space just a few days ago before trading linebacker Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings then signed 2023 first-round pick Jordan Addison and sit with approximately $9.6 million in available funds as of Wednesday.

That amount could jump significantly again depending on what the team decides to do with running back Dalvin Cook. The four-time Pro Bowler is under contract with the Vikings for the next three seasons, but Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated confirmed in a report Monday that Cook will not play for Minnesota in 2023 at his current cap number.

If the Vikings cut or trade Cook prior to June 1, they will save $5.9 million or $7.9 million, respectively, per Over The Cap. If Minnesota cuts or trades him after June 1, the team will save $9 million or $11 million, respectively. There is also the less likely possibility that Cook returns to the Vikings in 2023 on a reduced salary, which would also provide the franchise cap savings to some degree.

Vikings Can Pursue Extensions for T.J. Hockenson, Kirk Cousins With More Cap Room

T.J. Hockenson, Vikings

GettyTight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings listens to a play call from quarterback Kirk Cousins during a game against the Buffalo Bills in November 2022.

Minnesota probably has enough space now to get an extension done for Hunter. However, if the team clears between $6 million-$11 million on Cook in the coming weeks, the Vikings clear the way to make another move.

That could include an extension for tight end T.J. Hockenson, a deal that is expected after Adofo-Mensah traded with the Detroit Lions to acquire him at last year’s deadline. The extra money could also go to a new agreement with quarterback Kirk Cousins if Minnesota is so inclined, as the Daily Norseman pointed out Wednesday. That development is less likely than an extension for Hockenson, as the Vikings have already passed up one opportunity this offseason to add years to their starting QB’s contract.

Minnesota could also use the funds to add a player to the roster, such as an interior defensive lineman or a free agent pass rusher like Leonard Floyd to play alongside Hunter in 2023 and beyond.

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