What Danielle Hunter’s new contract means moving forward
After months of contract negotiations and offseason disputes, the Minnesota Vikings and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter have officially agreed to terms on a one-year, $20 million deal with $17 million guaranteed.
“I love this organization,” Hunter expressed to the media on Monday. “I’ve always been an advocate for these dudes. I’m happy to be back, happy to get back out there with my teammates, and just want to get out there and play football…It’s been a long process, but I’m here now, and I’m ready to work.”
Hunter, 28, was set to make a base salary of $5.5 million this season after restructuring his original five-year, $70 million deal two offseasons ago. The uncertainty surrounding a new contract led to widespread speculation about a potential trade for the disgruntled pass rusher.
“This is a situation that could have gone either way,” Rapoport said of Hunter’s status. “I know he was not happy. There were definitely times over the course of the last couple of months when I personally thought Hunter would be traded, but he’s not going anywhere and stays with the Vikings. It’s a big win for the organization.”
In his first fully healthy season since 2019, Hunter recorded 10.5 sacks, 65 tackles, and a forced fumble. However, despite his impressive play, the defensive unit struggled once again, ranking 31st in points allowed.
Under the leadership of former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, there are high expectations that Hunter’s performance could ascend to new heights. As a result, he could be well-positioned for a lucrative multi-year contract next offseason. The looming uncertainty is whether Hunter will remain in Minnesota or test the open market after the season.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the new deal includes a $5.5 million signing bonus (fully guaranteed), $10 million base salary (fully guaranteed), $1.5 million per game roster bonuses (fully guaranteed) and $3 million in performance-based incentives. These incentives will not count toward the salary cap in 2023, as they have been structured at not likely to be earned. Hunter’s new deal still has two void years, pushing his $14.9 million of dead money into the 2024 season with a 2023 cap hit of $20.95 million ($10 million base salary).
Hunter’s 2023 cap hit increases significantly
Before the renegotiation of Hunter’s contract, his projected cap hit for 2023 stood at approximately $13 million. However, the revised deal has raised his cap hit significantly to $20.95 million. This was an interesting decision from the front office as they could have pushed significant money into future years, but opted to raise his 2023 cap significantly instead.
Minnesota added $1,833,334 to each of the two void years, which comes to $3,666,668 total. Because of this, if Hunter were to leave via free agency, the team would receive a 2025 compensatory pick. This decision suggests their priority is to maintain ongoing cap flexibility, avoiding additional financial commitments, especially considering the potential upcoming departure of several veteran players from the team’s roster.
Players such as Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith, CJ Ham and Jordan Hicks and now Danielle Hunter could be playing their last season in purple in gold as the team continues its youth movement. Throughout this offseason, Adofo-Mensah’s focus has been on shedding substantial contracts from the team’s financial roster, while also strategically enhancing future flexibility, both in terms of finances and the team’s overall roster dynamics.
Hunter is set to become a Free Agent after the 2023 season
The reported agreement was reached a week ago on Saturday night, and under the revised deal, Minnesota will be prohibited from using the NFL’s franchise tag on him after the season. As a result, Hunter is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2024 season.
Hunter has made it clear over the recent years that his aspirations are to finish his career in Minnesota. On Monday, he reiterated this sentiment to the media, stating, “I want to be a Viking forever.” However, Hunter may be spending his final season in purple and gold as the team has indicated it could be heading in a younger direction defensively, so that’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
It’s still unclear at this point if Hunter is indeed in their future plans. Nevertheless, the newly revised contract serves as a win-win, enabling the team to preserve future cap flexibility while also giving the former third-round pick a well-deserved pay raise for the upcoming season.
Deal contains a no-trade clause
According to the new details of the revised deal, Hunter is unlikely to be traded as the deal reportedly contains a no-trade clause. Hunter was shopped around prior to the new agreement but now seems to be solidified as a key member of the team for this season. If the season goes sideways and the team’s playoff aspirations diminish as the trade deadline approaches, Adofo-Mensah could shop the Pro Bowl edge rusher once again.
For a trade to take place involving Hunter, he would need to agree to waive his no-trade clause. The situation is further complicated by Hunter’s authority to handpick his preferred trade destination if he decides to pursue a trade. This dynamic could potentially hinder as the team might encounter obstacles in securing a trade that ensures fair compensation.
While the option of a trade is not definitively off the table, it appears unlikely at this juncture unless there’s an unforeseen twist in the season’s narrative and Hunter expresses a genuine intent to part ways – a scenario that has not materialized thus far.
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