49ers Predicted to Sign Vikings’ 4-Time Pro Bowler to Replace Chase Young

The San Francisco 49ers are being linked to a move for Minnesota Vikings DE Danielle Hunter

Getty The San Francisco 49ers are being linked to a move for Minnesota Vikings DE Danielle Hunter

The San Francisco 49ers have built their defense on elite DL play, and they could add to that foundation with a Minnesota Vikings star. While there is already plenty of talent on the defensive line, there are going to be holes to fill.

Namely, the 49ers have to figure out how to replace Chase Young and Randy Gregory. The duo were brought in as pass-rushing reinforcements but will be free agents. One solution that Pro Football Network’s John Fields believes could happen would be San Francisco pursuing Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter.

“Adding a second bona fide edge rusher could certainly help in that regard, and Hunter has certainly proven capable of playing to that level across his eight-year career,” Fields wrote on February 25. “Although some regression back to the mean is likely for Hunter, who is not getting any younger at 29 years old, adding his dependable production could be attractive to the 49ers if they look to move on from the up-and-down Young.”

On paper, Hunter looks like a tremendous upgrade. And while Fields does issue caution, Hunter’s high floor and ceiling feel like safe things to bet on.

Hunter Has Best Season Yet Vikings

Coming into 2023, Hunter had already proven himself as a marquee edge rusher. The former LSU Tiger has now crossed the 10-sack mark in 5 different seasons, but 2023 was a step up even for him.

According to Pro Football Reference, Hunter totaled 16.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 17 starts. Further, he led the NFL with 23 tackles for loss and chipped in 2 passes defended as well.

Hunter was arguably a snub for a second-team All-Pro spot, which has been the case for most of his career. In fact, the Vikings DE has only been named to the All-Pro second-team once in his career, back in 2019.

For any team pursuing Hunter this offseason, the only possible concern is his injury issues. Hunter started every game in the 2022 and 2023 seasons, but missed the entirety of the 2020 campaign with a neck injury. In 2021, he missed 10 games due to a torn pectoral muscle.

49ers Will Have to Pay Up for Hunter

Coming off the best season of his NFL career, Hunter will be looking for the biggest possible payday. It’s important for players to cash out as they approach their 30s, and Hunter is right on that cusp.

Spotrac projects a three-year, $60 million deal for Hunter. Considering he just played on a deal worth $17 million per season, it’s a fair and maybe even optimistically low projection.

San Francisco doesn’t have that money up front. The 49ers are projected to have $6.1 million in cap space for when the league year opens. In order to sign Hunter, they will need to restructure contracts or get rid of players.

Restructures would be ideal, and contracts like those of DT Arik Armstead and WR Deebo Samuel come to mind. Both are set to make close to $28.5 million in 2024 but those cap hits could be mitigated quickly with extensions or reworks.

Adding Hunter would be a statement move for the 49ers. But it will not be cheap, and it would require multiple other moves in order to set it up.