NFC East Rival Poised to Make Run at Vikings’ $17 Million Star in Free Agency

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are working to star edge rusher Danielle Hunter, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano on March 3.

They aren’t alone in having interest in the four-time Pro Bowler, though.

“Offensive guard and edge rusher have emerged as two premium positions that Giants GM Joe Schoen will prioritize and possibly pay for in free agency this March,” New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard wrote on March 2. “Detroit Lions left guard Jonah Jackson and Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter, in particular, are among the top-tier free agents at those positions that the Giants like, sources at the NFL Combine say.”

Hunter, 29, is coming off a career-best 16.5-sack season and a one-year, $17 million contract.

He figures to make substantially more than that. Spotrac projects him to command a deal worth $20 million annually on the open market.

‘The Vikings … made an effort to re-sign edge rusher Danielle Hunter,” Graziano wrote on March 3. “Hunter … could be the top edge rusher on the market and would likely generate interest from multiple teams.”

That interest means Hunter could expect more than his projected salary.

“It’s safe to say teams are expecting Hunter to be in — or at least searching for — a pretty massive price range, something well north of $20 million per year,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote in response to Graziano. And the production might just justify it: Hunter has averaged 14 sacks over his past four healthy seasons.”

The Giants have $35.3 million to spend in free agency before making any other moves, per Spotrac.

That is roughly $6 million less than the Vikings. But Kirk Cousins’ free agency looms over every other decision for the Vikings this offseason while Justin Jefferson’s is on the horizon, potentially making Hunter a casualty.

A team like the Giants could look to take advantage of that situation.

Vikings Painted Themselves Into a Corner With Danielle Hunter’s Free Agency

Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

GettyDanielle Hunter #99 of the Minnesota Vikings.

“Making a big splash for Hunter to headline the D-line’s restoration is a tantalizing possibility,” Leonard wrote. “The Vikings can’t franchise tag him.”

The franchise tag was created for teams in situations similar to the Vikings’ current plight. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them re-sign Cousins and apply the tag to Hunter if they could. But they made it impossible to take that route.

Hunter’s contract includes a clause that prohibits the Vikings from tagging him.

The good news for the Vikings is that Hunter said he wants to stay. Perhaps they decide to address their “other” issues such as Hunter early on, even if it costs Cousins.

Justin Jefferson Projected to Land $30 Million Contract

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyJustin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The expectation is for Jefferson to reset the market for wide receivers, if not all non-quarterbacks, on his next deal. He has spoken confidently about his situation despite the lack of a resolution in contract talks.

He will get paid one way or another after the historic start to his career.

“Jefferson is likely to set the top of the receiver market whenever he signs, and his deal is certain to pay him more than $30 million per year,” Graziano wrote. “The question is how much more.”