The Minnesota Vikings have already traded pass rusher Za’Darius Smith and are likely to release running back Dalvin Cook, but they may still have other unfinished business on their roster. The Vikings have received calls on edge defender Danielle Hunter, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who adds that NFL interest in Hunter is “pretty serious.”
If Minnesota decides to trade Hunter, where are his best fits around the league?
Danielle Hunter Trade Rumors and Landing Spots
Hunter is displeased with his current contract, which calls for him to earn just $5.5 million in 2023. That compensation will be comprised of a $4.9 million base salary, a $100,000 workout bonus, and $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses.
Per Rapoport, the Vikings have tried to formulate a “band-aid” solution that would allow Hunter to collect more money during the upcoming season. However, the veteran pass rusher has not been interested and did not attend voluntary workouts earlier this year.
Hunter’s contract has been a consistent issue since he took a below-market deal in 2018 that paid him just $14.4 million annually.
As the edge rusher has continued to explode, Minnesota has tried to work out answers for Hunter, including paying an $18 million roster bonus — eventually converted to a signing bonus — last season.
Any team that acquires Hunter should be expected to hand him a new deal. Meanwhile, replacing Hunter at this point in the summer could prove difficult, although there are a number of veteran pass rushers — including Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Houston, and Frank Clark — still available on the open market.
The Bears and Lions could certainly use help on the edge, but the Vikings are unlikely to trade their best defensive player to a divisional rival. Instead, let’s run through the teams that could make a play for Hunter this summer.
The Panthers’ defense has the makings of a potential top-10 unit in 2023, but they have a glaring hole at edge rusher opposite Brian Burns. Although former second-round selection Yetur Gross-Matos is tentatively penciled into that spot, he’s failed to top 3.5 sacks in a season since entering the league in 2020.
Hunter managed 10.5 sacks, 76 pressures, and a career-high 22 quarterback hits last season and would instantly give Carolina one of the most fearsome pass-rushing duos in the league. New Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will essentially run the same scheme that the Vikings deployed in 2022, so Hunter wouldn’t face much of a learning curve.
Carolina also ranks second in the NFL with over $27 million in available cap space. They have more than enough room to give Hunter a contract extension and could even frontload a new deal for the veteran defender.
While Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said this week that adding another pass rusher was a conversation that his club would have “down the road,” trading for a player like Hunter might be too good of an opportunity to pass up as Jacksonville attempts to stake its claim in the AFC.
Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is cross-training with the Jaguars’ defensive line this offseason, a sign that he could spend more of his time as a defensive tackle next season. If Walker is playing more snaps inside, Jacksonville could afford to bring in another edge defender to team with Josh Allen and Co.
Even if Walker plays primarily on the edge, Hunter could still make sense for the Jags. The club can’t rely on former first-rounder K’Lavon Chaisson, who could be traded before the season begins. Meanwhile, veterans Arden Key and Dawuane Smoot — each of whom played at least 400 snaps last year — are no longer on Jacksonville’s roster.
In recent seasons, the Ravens have received ample snaps from aging edge defenders like Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Pernell McPhee. Compared to that group, the 28-year-old Hunter would be a spring chicken.
Baltimore has been willing to trade draft picks for veteran assets in the past. Just last year, the Ravens shipped their second-round selection to the Bears for linebacker Roquan Smith, whom they subsequently made the highest-paid player at his position.
Hunter’s new deal wouldn’t pay him at that level, but Baltimore could work out a reasonable contract to keep him with the Ravens for the next several seasons. While Baltimore has options like Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser, and David Ojabo on their roster, none of those players offer the consistency or upside Hunter brings to the table.