Hunter, who deleted all team-related photos on his Instagram amid contract negotiations this offseason, will see just 5.5 million in cash this season after he agreed to restructuring his contract last season to make space for Za’Darius Smith.
Hunter’s deal will need to be adjusted after the 28-year-old posted the sixth-most pressures among edge rushers last season. The Vikings have the cap space to make that happen for Hunter after Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) projected Hunter to be among a cast of veteran NFL players who will see a contract extension this offseason, estimating Hunter will strike a three-year, $67.5 million deal.
“As a result of Hunter’s contract reworking over the 2021 offseason, he’s currently set to earn just $5.5 million in 2023, and it would come as a major surprise if he reports to the facility before that number jumps dramatically. Hunter finally had a fully healthy season after missing a lot of time over 2020-2021. His 905 snaps were a career high and his 18.4% pass rush win rate was a top-20 mark among edge rushers,” PFF’s Brad Spielberger wrote.
At a $22.5 million annual value, PFF’s projected contract for Hunter would rank sixth at his position. Hunter has shown he’s a top-10 player at his position when healthy, but after missing 24 of 32 games from 2020 to 2021.
Hunter put forth a healthy 2022 season and showed he’s still the same player he once was. Despite adjusting to a 3-4 base scheme and only posting three sacks through seven games, Hunter finished the season with 70 pressures and 12 sacks and appeared in all 17 regular-season games.
Danielle Hunter Extension Tied to Vikings’ Decision on Dalvin Cook
Despite the calendar turning to June, Minnesota still has many important business moves to attend to, starting with sorting out Dalvin Cook‘s future after the running back has refused to take a pay cut so far this offseason.
The Vikings have pending contract extension talks involving Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and Hunter, however, how much money the team can extend this summer to the trio depends on whether Cook stays or goes.
If Cook is traded, the Vikings could create $11 million in cap space compared to $9 million if he is cut. Cook could also still take a pay cut, although the cap savings are likely to not be nearly as significant as moving on from him.
Jefferson and Hockenson are likely to show up for mandatory minicamps on June 13 and June 14, however, Hunter’s situation appears more dire at the moment.
The Vikings can also create over $10 million in cap space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract as well.
Vikings, Kirk Cousins Extension Not Off the Table
The Vikings may not have struck a deal on an extension with Kirk Cousins before the opening of free agency in March, but that doesn’t discount the possibility of an extension in the near future.
Minnesota restructured Cousins’ contract to create immediate cap space to help rebuild the defense that saw six starters leave this offseason. That pushed a $20 million roster bonus onto the following two years’ books despite Cousins entering the final year of his contract. He carries a $28 million dead cap hit next season whether he plays for Minnesota or not.
The impasse of contract negotiations came down to the duration of his next deal. Cousins wanted one more long-term deal, while the Vikings couldn’t commit to that time horizon.
However, it may be in their best interest to find a way to keep Cousins around for the 2024 season rather than eat that dead cap hit and still have to field another signal caller.