Danielle Hunter sent shockwaves through the Minnesota Vikings fanbase last year when Ian Rapoport (NFL Network) hit send on a tweet that made everyone wonder if he and the organization’s futures were still aligned.
Hunter wanted a raise… but he was also committing to season-ending back surgery, making the situation cloudy at best.
#Vikings star Danielle Hunter is having surgery to clean up a herniated disc, knocking him out for 2020, per me & @TomPelissero. MIN has a decision this offseason: Make Hunter the highest-paid defender in football or trade him. Have we seen the last of him in a Vikings uniform👀— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2020
Now, nearly four months since Ian sent this tweet, Danielle Hunter’s camp has been silent. But after a long season that put more than a few things into perspective, much has changed. With that change, there are some relevant points to touch on before we continue.
First, Danielle Hunter isn’t underpaid heading into 2021. If his contract plays out as scheduled for next season, the Vikings will pay him $12.75M in “total cash“, good for 12th in the NFL among defensive ends. He’ll also cost the Vikings a top-6 DE salary cap hit, at $17.75M. Those numbers, in themselves, look ripe for a re-do. Hunter isn’t even scheduled to make his cap hit in salary over the course of the season. That doesn’t make sense for either party.
Where are the guarantees?
According to Spotrac.com, $17+ million of Hunter’s $72 million contract was guaranteed at signing. $40 million was guaranteed, in total. Most of that guaranteed money is gone but 3 years still remain on his deal. As you read this, $0 of Hunter’s 2021 contract is guaranteed. $3.3 million will become guaranteed on March 19 (3rd day of league year).
For a guy coming off back surgery, Danielle probably wants more guaranteed in his contract than what is left in his current one.
You have seen the Minnesota Vikings do this with other players in the recent past. If looking for a more current and position-specific example, turn West. Joey Bosa signed a MASSIVE deal with the Chargers last offseason that includes a cap hit of $31 million in 2024 and $100 million total in guaranteed money.
Danielle Hunter isn’t getting that off back surgery, but the structure is something to take note of. Bosa’s new deal only counted $15 million against the LA salary cap in 2020, less than half of what it will reach in a few years.
If the Vikings can get Hunter’s 2021 salary cap number down to say… $10 million, they’d save over $7 million in cap space. That doesn’t seem over the top when you look at Bosa’s first year.
The Vikings Side
For the Minnesota Vikings, there is plenty of incentive in getting Danielle Hunter’s contract adjusted. To start, he wants it re-done. That doesn’t always matter but Hunter is one of your top future assets and not a guy that you want walking around the locker room pissed off. He’s huge. Keeping him happy is certainly part of this equation.
But most importantly, a new deal for Hunter could provide much needed salary cap relief for the Vikings in 2021. Cutting a signing bonus check that #99 can cash immediately, could allow Spielman to roster him at a very low salary cap number for 2021. The Wilf’s have proven their willingness to cut checks for more cap space over and over again. They aren’t going to draw the line at Danielle Hunter.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan