As we all know, the Danielle Hunter contract situation has been a topic of discussion for several months now. Aside from the Vikings' general desire to get a new deal done with Danielle, there hadn't been any significant news on that front. Until now.
From Inside Minicamps LIVE on NFL+: The #Vikings are receiving trade calls centered around star pass-rusher Danielle Hunter, and the interest is real, sources say. A look inside the complex situation… pic.twitter.com/GKx98NSx0n— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 7, 2023
Ian Rapoport reported today that the Minnesota Vikings are receiving trade calls regarding Danielle Hunter, noting that "the interest is pretty serious" For those who can't watch the video, here's the full quote:
“Somewhat murky future for Danielle Hunter in Minnesota. Here’s my understanding of where it stands: Sources say that teams have been calling the Minnesota Vikings regarding Danielle Hunter. He has, in fact, generated some trade interest. This is something we’ve heard rumors about for the last several months.”
“You try to figure out why, and there are a couple reasons. First of all, he is very, very good. Teams usually like really, really good players at premium positions like pass rusher. He’s also due to make just $5.5 million this year because they moved money from this year up a couple years back to better properly compensate him. The Vikings and Hunter have not yet been able to strike a long-term deal to compensate him at a level he wants.”
“And when there are rumors about a player not getting the contract he wants, usually there are teams that call. My understanding is the interest is pretty serious. Now the Vikings have tried to make this work, they’ve tried to do kind of a bandaid-type deal to compensate him for 2023 and then we’ll see after this. A trade probably would’ve been a lot easier before the draft because then the Vikings would’ve been able to replace him. Much more difficult now, but these conversations are happening, and we will see where they end up.”
What's stands out to me here is that we've known about Danielle Hunter's contract situation for several months, but only now did one of the league's most prominent insiders decide to report on it. One important thing to remember is that everything you hear from people like Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter is leaked for a reason. Meaning, that either another team, Danielle Hunter's camp, or the Minnesota Vikings themselves wanted this out there.
The question is, who benefits the most from having this put out there? Certainly not the other teams, because they would rather pretend like they aren't that interested in order to drive the Vikings' asking price down. That leaves us with two scenarios: Either Danielle Hunter's camp leaked this to signal that he has a market and deserves to be paid accordingly. Or, the Vikings themselves leaked this because they are, indeed, shopping Danielle Hunter.
I'm starting to believe that the Vikings may be more willing to trade Danielle Hunter now, than they were even a month ago. That would certainly explain why the timing of the report. Plus, the theory that the Vikings leaked this to drum up more trade interest in their most valuable asset makes the most sense.
The Vikings are likely moving on from Dalvin Cook to save money, but they still need to give Justin Jefferson pretty much whatever he wants. Kwesi even said in an interview that he wouldn't want to be the Vikings GM without Justin Jefferson. That deal is going to happen, and Jefferson will be the league's highest paid non-quarterback when it's all said and done.
Kirk Cousins is also entering a contract year, and the Vikings may decide to move on from the veteran quarterback. If they decide to do so, then a replacement is needed. Jaren Hall could certainly be that guy, but if the team feels he isn't the solution, then they'll need more draft capital to trade up in the first round to land their new face of the franchise. Trading Danielle Hunter could give the Vikings the assets they need to get that done.
My guess is that Danielle Hunter is unsatisfied with these underpaid, band-aid type deals the Vikings have offered him in the past, and he wants to cash in at market value. Hunter turns 29 this October and has dealt with his fair share of injuries. In 2020, he missed the entire season with a cervical spine disk hernia. Then in 2021, he tore his pectoral muscle against the Cowboys and missed the remainder of the season. So it makes sense that he'd want to cash in while he still can.
If the Vikings and Danielle Hunter are not able to make progress in negotiating a new deal that benefits both sides, then Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have a major decision to make, and it may result in the Vikings trading their star pass rusher.