Danielle Hunter Unlikely to Play Under Current Contract

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have done a ton of work to their roster over the past two weeks but there’s plenty left to do. The team is still light on talent and/or depth at cornerback, wide receiver, interior defensive line, interior offensive line and quarterback.

Too many outside linebackers…?

But one position, where there might be too many cooks in the kitchen, is at outside or EDGE linebacker. Both starters from last season, Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, are still on the roster.

On top of those two, the Vikings went out this offseason and signed former Saints pass rusher, Marcus Davenport, to a one-year prove it deal. While it’s possible Kwesi and O’Connell work out a rotation between the three, it’s more likely that one of Hunter or Smith is no longer on the roster, come Training Camp.

Danielle Hunter unlikely to play under current contract

The most logical departure, in that situation, is Smith, given recent reports that he wants to be released. But there are whispers around league circles that the more logical move, for Kwesi & Co, would be to trade Danielle Hunter, who, according to Darren Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North) is unlikely to play under his current contract, which calls for just $5.5 million in cash for the 2023-24 season.

“I would say that’s another situation worth monitoring, because I have a hard time believing that Danielle Hunter is comfortable playing this year at just over $5 million, compared to what many of his colleagues are making. If you look at comps, go up and down the list of guys that produced like he has produced, those guys are making triple what he is set to make in 2023. So I just have a hard time believing that he’ll just say ‘okay, no problem, I’ll show up when you need me to show up, no issue, whatsoever’. So I would say, to be determined, stay tuned… but that’s definitely a talker as we move forward into spring.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)
Za’Darius Smith or Hunter?

If Danielle Hunter wants a new deal, which he will, the Vikings can’t afford to pay him and Za’Darius Smith. And at 28-years-old, Hunter is sure to bring back a haul of draft picks, if dealt to a new team. The 30-year-old Smith, on the other hand, would fetch far less.

Over the weekend, Charley Walters (Pioneer Press) reported there being little interest around the league in Smith, who the Vikings are shopping, but noted that Hunter could be enough for the Vikings to trade up and draft their QB of the future.

Even though they’re still on the roster, it’s clear the Vikings still want to trade Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith, but haven’t received worthwhile offers. It makes no sense to bring Cook back after having signed Alexander Mattison to a two-year deal worth $7 million.

It only makes sense to keep Smith if the Vikings intend to trade Danielle Hunter, who could help the team move up to draft a QB.

Charley Walters – Pioneer Press

General manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, is not entertaining trades for Danielle Hunter, at this point, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings haven’t received offers. Wolfson mentioned definite trade interest in Hunter, during his appearance Tuesday on Mackey & Judd (SKOR North).

“My understanding is that there has been trade interest registered [in Danielle Hunter]. I just don’t get the sense that the Vikings are interested in trading him.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)

In all likelihood, Kwesi isn’t sure who the Minnesota Vikings’ outside linebackers will be in 2023-24. That’s why Za’Darius Smith is still on the roster. He wants more money and a starting role, which the Vikings are not interested in giving him.

But if Kwesi cannot find a new contract that works for Hunter, and they were to get a trade offer they can’t refuse, then efforts to make Smith happy would certainly heat up.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan