Hunter has been a trade candidate this offseason due to his massive $26.1 million cap hit for this upcoming season despite him playing just seven games in the past two seasons.
Rumors stirred that Hunter may be left out of the team’s future after Kevin O’Connell did not mention Hunter among several star defenders in his introductory press conference.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah cleared the air at the NFL Combine last week.
The latest Vikings news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Vikings newsletter here!
Hunter Likely Has a Future in Minnesota
Speaking to media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday, March 1, Adofo-Mensah said Hunter was one of the first players he called once he was hired.
“Danielle was one of the first people I spoke with,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Really good player. Really good person. He’s a really good football player and to build a championship team you need a lot of really good football players. He’s someone we want to work with going forward.”
Working with Hunter likely entails restructuring his contract for the upcoming season. The Vikings can convert Hunter’s $18 million roster bonus to a signing bonus and stretch those earning across the final four years of his contract, creating $13.5 million in cap space for the upcoming season.
Die-hard Vikings fan? Follow the Heavy on Vikings Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content from Skol Nation!
Vikings Back in Hunter’s Good Graces?
After Hunter underwent season-ending neck surgery in October 2020, Ian Rapoport leaked an interesting aside to the surgery, saying the Vikings would have to make Hunter the highest-paid defensive end in the league or trade him.
It was a possible escalation in upcoming contract negotiations by Hunter’s camp while he was upset with how the Vikings handled the leaking of information about his injury.
“I know [Hunter] was not happy with how a lot of it was dealt publicly — in terms of the information that came out about his injury, his process in seeking surgery and deciding to get operated on,” Star Tribune reporter Andrew Krammer said on the Purple Insider podcast in February 2021. “He wasn’t happy with a lot of that and made that known to people in the open.”
After reaching an agreement in a contract restructuring last offseason, Hunter shined early the 2021 season, tallying six sacks in seven games before suffering a torn pectoral injury.
While Minnesota doesn’t need to seek Hunter’s approval to convert his roster bonus this offseason, he’s likely viewing the new regime in Minnesota more favorably after Adofo-Mensah declined to speak on Hunter’s recovery this offseason and opted to keep those matters in-house.
If the Vikings restructure Hunter’s contract, he’ll carry a $12.6 million cap hit in 2022 instead, ranking 23rd among edge rushers next season — a reasonable price tag for the 27-year-old edge rusher who was the fastest player to reach 50 career sacks and showed he was every bit his old self after neck surgery in 2021.