Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter remains unseen at team OTAs.
But the clock is ticking.
Hunter, who has already forfeited a $100,000 workout bonus by missing OTAs, must report to the first day of minicamps on June 15 or be fined. Coach Mike Zimmer addressed Hunter’s absence from minicamp and projected that the situation could continue through the remainder of OTAs.
Said Zimmer: “I have not (spoken with Hunter),” adding that the team has almost 95% participation at OTAs.
“We’ll just see when minicamp shows up,” he added, signaling the next possible escalation in Hunter’s contract negotiations in Minnesota.
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Hunter Seeking Past Dues
When Hunter sat out all of training camp last season, ruminations of a possible contract holdout had already surfaced. Those rumors were put to rest when details of Hunter’s herniated disc in his neck leaked as he sought expert medical opinion throughout the 2020 season.
He finally decided to undergo surgery in October, news that Ian Rapoport broke along with an inkling that the Vikings would have to make Hunter the highest-paid defensive player in the league this offseason. Rapoport’s added side to Hunter undergoing surgery seemed out of leftfield as local beat reporters found it to have no basis.
However, in March, The Athletic’s Chad Graff reported that Hunter “remains unhappy with his current situation with the Vikings and is exploring all options, including a trade request,” per his sources.
Spielman countered Graff’s report that he hasn’t heard any word from Hunter about a trade request or a pay raise. The Vikings and Hunter’s camp have played coy throughout the offseason, but when Minnesota gained significant cap space following the post-June 1 release designation of Kyle Rudolph, a team source leaked a comment that Hunter’s five-year, $72 million deal is still adequate.
“It was a great deal when he signed it. A third-round pick that had only gone to one Pro Bowl,” the source told Josina Anderson. All I’ll ask is ‘if you were coming off your first year as a starter, would you have turned five years, $72 million down?’
Hunter quickly outplayed the contract he signed in 2018 by becoming the youngest player to reach 50 career sacks in NFL history. His current $14.4 million annual salary ranks 17th among edge rushers in the league, per OverTheCap, while he has consistently ranked as a top-10 edge rusher in the league.
But coming off a season-ending neck injury puts his future value in the air.
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Hunter’s ‘Unhappiness’ Is More than Just His Pay
Star Tribune beat reporter Andrew Krammer said on Matthew Coller’s Purple Insider podcast that Hunter’s unhappiness not only stems from being underpaid at his position but also from the details of his injury being leaked.
“Behind the scenes, 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,” Krammer said. “He wasn’t happy with a lot of that and made that known to people in the open. Because of that, we know he’s unhappy on one end of the spectrum and on the other end, we know he’s also been really underpaid for some time.”
While Krammer’s report points that the injury may be a sensitive subject, Dr. David Chao, who was the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers for 17 seasons and is often tabbed for his expert opinion, believes that the injury is not career-threatening provided a successful surgery, saying Hunter could play three to four months after surgery, the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson reported.
Hunter has shown he’s in good health this offseason working out, but when or whether he’ll return to TCO Performance Center in Eagan remains the A-topic this offseason.