From the outset, I will acknowledge my actual opinion: the best course of action to resolve Danielle’s dilemma is to accept an extension. Elite edge brokers are extremely hard to find. Subtracting it from an already porous defense would be foolish.
And of course, the Vikings would find themselves in an unenviable position after moving him. Trading Danielle Hunter would mean the Vikings are looking for someone exactly like Danielle Hunter. As of late June, only one player on Minnesota’s roster is capable of doing what Hunter can: Mr. Hunter himself.
However, there are a variety of scenarios for how the hold could end. The team has been gaining commercial interest, as Ian Rapoport originally noted. Will #99 become Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s 16th trade? The possibility is there.
What is not an option is a cut. That is a result that does not make any sense. Moving on from Dalvin Cook through a cut is only sensible when we consider the capitalization savings and lack of commercial interest. With Hunter, there are limited capitalization savings ($5.5 million) and a lot of outside interests for a deal. Hunter is on the Vikings’ roster or will be traded. There is no outage taking place.
With that reality in mind, the trio of settings for Mr. Hunter and the Vikings. They are ranked in descending order from least to most attractive.
The 3 options in Danielle’s dilemma
Option #3: A Showdown That Involves Waiting For It
Easily the worst move is to play hard, stubborn, and unwavering. Doing so threatens to upset much of the positive sentiment that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have worked so hard to cultivate.
And for the record, Danielle Hunter is very reasonable when she decides to protest her payment. In the NFL, making just $5.5 million for the elite pass rush is essentially a flop. She is entering the second half of her career and wants more guaranteed cash. Can you blame him? I certainly can’t.
Minnesota is heading towards a season where doubt is pervasive. Vultures are circling the NFC North in anticipation of a big drop for both the Vikings and Packers. Allowing the uncertainty of Hunter’s stamina to bleed out in training camp and preseason seems very reckless.
Vikings need to be firm in their convictions and be able to negotiate effectively. They must also do everything they can to avoid a scenario where Danielle’s dilemma becomes Danielle’s distraction.
Option #2: Find a business partner
In all likelihood, Minnesota would get a fair amount of draft capital in return.
However, a first-round pick is unlikely. The acquiring team would be a bit spooked by Hunter’s injury history, age and then the need to sign him to a new contract that pays him handsomely. All of these factors come together to drive the price down.
What Hunter offers is the potential to insert a truly elite pass-rusher into a lineup in 2023. Every NFL team wants that kind of player.
Trading it means losing this type of ability:
Ideally, a trade would involve bringing back a rising pass-rusher. Doing so would give the Vikings a chance to update their passing career as they continue to build both now and in the future.
An intriguing option that Dustin Baker mentions in viking territory it goes to Washington’s Chase Young, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. Since then, the ultra-talented Young has battled injuries and ineffectiveness on an absolutely loaded Commanders defensive line.
Achieving a player-by-player deal is something Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hasn’t done in his time in the GM’s chair. However, it would fit with his emphasis on acquiring advantage players who were drafted high and even on his rookie deals.
Option #1: Agree to a new agreement that works for both parties
As we discussed above, an extension is the ultimate goal. Or, perhaps even find a way to make it up more in 2023 without adding more years, similar to how things worked out with Anthony Barr in 2021.
Sure, he’ll turn 29 at the end of October, but he hasn’t missed a step. Last year, Hunter was a terrifying pass rusher inside Ed Donatell’s completely bland defense. What could he do with Brian Flores in charge? Getting back to 14.5 sacks, something he did in 2018 and 2019, is not an unreasonable expectation.
Many pass-rushers excel well into their 30s. Brandon Graham (35), Von Miller (34), Za’Darius Smith (30), Denico Autry (32), Justin Houston (34) and Cameron Jordan (34) continue to be excellent running backs. The point, folks, is simply that it’s not uncommon for a pass-rusher to play very well even well past his dreaded 30th birthday.
Danielle Hunter could very reasonably have 3-5 more dominant seasons. If the team thinks it’s a strong possibility, then an extension is the ultimate goal. Currently, Kwesi is working with just under $18 million in cap space. Next year, the team is projected to have more than $53 million.
The proud owner of the 7th best PFF grade among cutting edge racers, Hunter may be a pivotal player for several more years.
Editor’s Note: Information from Professional soccer reference, FFP, and on the lid helped with this piece.