Vikings 2-Time Pro Bowl Defender Named Browns Trade Target

Minnesota Vikings

Getty Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (left) and head coach Kevin O'Connell have been mostly quiet so far in free agency.

The Minnesota Vikings haven’t made any earth-shattering moves this offseason but the trade of one of their most talented and most expensive players may yet be in the works.

The Cleveland Browns hope to bring back Jadeveon Clowney next season to play opposite their All-Pro pass rusher Myles Garrett. But if the Browns are unable to get that deal done, they will need another edge defender to round out the front seven. One name Cleveland has considered to replace Clowney in that role is Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter.

“The #Browns have reportedly “looked into” trading for #Vikings DE Danielle Hunter,” Fansided editor Adam Patrick tweeted Monday, March 21.

Hunter was a Pro Bowl selection in both 2018 and 2019. Over the course of those two seasons he amassed 142 tackles, including 36 tackles for loss, 41 quarterback hits, 29 sacks, three forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown. Hunter has been snakebitten by injury ever since, missing the entirety of the 2020 season with a neck injury and playing only seven games in 2021 due to a torn pectoral.

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Hunter Trade Still an Option After Vikings Paid Roster Bonus

Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

GettyDefensive end Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates in the second half against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As part of his tweet, Patrick cited a March 19 report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that indicated the Vikings had received interest from “multiple teams” about a potential trade for Hunter.

Three days prior to that, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Minnesota was actively attempting to trade its star pass rusher.

“As the #Vikings try to sort out their cap situation, sources continue to say they’ve been trying to trade Danielle Hunter, who’s got an $18 million roster bonus due on Sunday [March 20],” Goessling tweeted. “Hunter has a $25.83M cap figure. The Vikings need to clear space to make their new deals official.”

That deadline came and went, and the Vikings paid out the $18 million roster bonus to Hunter. However, Minnesota can work around that payment by converting it to four consecutive signing bonuses. Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press laid out the details of the situation Sunday.

“The Vikings have had the right to convert the amount to a signing bonus without [Hunter’s] consent, and could spread it among four years left on his contract (including two voidable years),” Tomasson wrote. “That could clear $13.5 million on the cap.”

The Vikings recently restructured the contract of wide receiver Adam Thielen, which Tomasson said cleared around $5 million in cap space and gave the team approximately $6.5 million in total breathing room. Adding $13.5 million to the mix puts Minnesota’s remaining roster budget at around $20 million.

The Vikings continue to consider several upgrades at multiple positions, including cornerback and along the offensive line. As such, trading Hunter to the Browns — or elsewhere — may still make sense for Minnesota depending on what path the team chooses to take forward.

Vikings Met With Former Packers DE Za’Darius Smith Monday

Za'Darius Smith IR

GettyLinebacker Za’Darius Smith, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, reacts during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 12, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Vikings’ plans for 2022 became somewhat clearer on Monday when they hosted former Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to a meeting in Minneapolis.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero was first to report that the meeting was taking place.

“Former #Packers OLB Za’Darius Smith is headed to Minnesota today for a visit with the #Vikings, per sources,” Pelissero tweeted. “Smith’s original deal with the #Ravens fell apart. Could he stay in the NFC North instead?”

While Smith’s trip to Minnesota is not a definite indicator that the team wants to move on from Hunter, it seems to signal one of two likelihoods: that the Vikings are looking to load up a dual threat pass rush of their own in 2022, or the team will try to trade Hunter if they can sign Smith to a more favorable deal.

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