Danielle Hunter Undergoes Surgery, Insider Speculates Future With Vikings

Danielle Hunter

Getty Danielle Hunter will officially undergo season-ending surgery.

Minutes after news of Vikings trading Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens broke, the Vikings’ other Pro Bowl pass rusher was ruled out of the 2020 season.

Danielle Hunter, who had been grappling with the decision to undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his neck through the season, committed to the surgery on Thursday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

His colleague Ian Rapoport speculated on Hunter’s future with the Vikings despite having three more years on his contract.

While there was concern that Hunter sitting out training camp and the beginning of the season was a contract dispute, the release of the nature of his injury diminished those rumors as Hunter. Rapoport’s speculation seems vapid as Hunter still has three years left on his current deal and has just missed the first season in his career.

Hunter has been a huge bargain for the Vikings as the 12th highest-paid defensive end this season despite his trajectory as one of the brightest stars at the position, becoming the youngest player to reach 50 career sacks last season.

However, a new contract that would make him the “highest-paid defender in football” after he undergoes season-ending surgery would be a tough sell for his agents.


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Spielman Addresses Ngakoue Trade, Future of Franchise

Yannick Ngakoue

GettyThe Vikings pass rusher was traded to the Ravens on Thursday.

The Vikings are now without their top two pass rushers for the remainder of the season as the team is making moves during their bye week in reassessing the 2020 season and their 1-5 start.

It appears the Vikings are punting the season, although general manager Rick Spielman has declined to comment on a rebuild, per the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling.

Spielman said the Wilf family has been “extremely supportive” and added that “No one thinks the season’s over right now.”

Spielman said that trading Ngakoue to the Ravens was made to focus both on the present and future, adding that “when you have probably one of the top running backs in the league, I don’t know if you’d call that a rebuild or not.”

This statement aligns with the Vikings’ decision to make Dalvin Cook the fifth highest-paid running back in the league this season as a commitment to their current offensive scheme and the franchise’s future success. While the Vikings received a third-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder for Ngakoue, they essentially turned their second-round pick they gave up to the Jaguars for Ngakoue to move back 50 spots in the draft.

“You want to win as many games as we can, and that’s going to be our objective for the year,” Spielman said. “But also, when you have an opportunity to continue to add, with the 15 draft picks, you’re seeing most of them having to play right now.”

The Vikings figure to be cutting their losses by trading Ngakoue as the Ravens picked an opportune time as Ngakoue’s value could have improved this season.

Ravaged by Injuries

In a season where the Vikings already had to replace five starters on defense, the replacements and fixtures remaining continued to crumble as the offseason went on.

Nose tackle Michael Pierce was poised to replace Linval Joseph but opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. Weakside linebacker and run-stuffer Ben Gedeon remains on the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list after he had two concussions last season and special teams linebacker Cameron Smith, who figured to play a larger role in his second season, underwent heart surgery before Week 1.

Then Anthony Barr suffered a torn pectoral injury in Week 2 that forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

“To lose three linebackers, two of them before the season even starts, that’s kind of hard to predict,” Spielman said. “Gedeon and Cam Smith with the heart surgery, so you’re scrambling a little bit, trying to fill voids.”

The Vikings defense now has just three returning starters from the 2019 unit in Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris and Eric Kendricks. Shamar Stephen was a part-time starter at nose tackle.

The Vikings will likely incorporate more rookies into the defensive rotation to ready the group for the 2021 season. Rookie Defensive tackle James Lynch and rookie defensive end D.J. Wonnum have both registered sacks this season and figure to be more involved moving forward along with rookie cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, who have become regular starters this season.