The Minnesota Vikings chose not to trade two stars ahead of the deadline, a decision that has worked out in the short term. However, both players’ prices are on the rise due to exceptional seasons.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus predicted that quarterback Kirk Cousins will sign a two-year contract worth $60 million total, even despite suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 8 and playing next season at 36 years old. Outside linebacker Danielle Hunter, who is having a career year, is also poised to sign a massive new contract.
“Hunter has been a revelation in new defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ blitz-heavy scheme, though he was just as productive in 2022,” Spielberger wrote. “Teams that run a 3-4 or 4-3 could probably find a way to effectively deploy Hunter, and injury concerns of a few years ago seem like distant memories. He is on pace for another season with 900-plus snaps, 70-plus quarterback pressures and double-digit sacks.”
Spielberger projected Hunter will sign a three-year deal worth $65 million in total, with $40 million in guaranteed money.
Danielle Hunter Producing Career Season in Contract Year
Whether Hunter will sign that deal in Minnesota or elsewhere remains an open question.
The star outside linebacker pushed for a new contract or a trade all summer before eventually renegotiating his the final year of his current deal to pay him a guaranteed $17 million. Incentives, all of which Hunter has already hit, made the maximum value of the agreement $20 million.
Also included in the contract was a stipulation that Minnesota can not apply the franchise tag to Hunter to keep him with the franchise through 2024 on a one-year deal worth the average of the top-five salaries at his position across the NFL.
Hunter will turn 30 years old next season but has been magnificent through 14 contests in 2023. He leads the NFL with 21 tackles for loss and has already set a career-high with 15.5 sacks and still three games yet to play, per Pro Football Reference.
Several NFL teams will likely be interested in Hunter, which could drive his price up even more. Continued dominance over the stretch run and another potential showcase in the playoffs could also end up pricing Minnesota out on the bidding war likely coming for Hunter’s services in 2024 and beyond.
Spotrac currently projects the Vikings will have just shy of $38.1 million in available salary cap space next offseason.
Danielle Hunter Passes Jared Allen on Vikings’ All-Time List of Sack Leaders
Through nearly eight NFL seasons and 116 games played, Hunter has already positioned himself as one of the great Vikings of all time.
Hunter first tied, then surpassed, Hall-of-Fame candidate Jared Allen on Minnesota’s list of career sack leaders with 86.5 after recording two against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Hunter is now the franchise’s sixth all-time sack leader, 10 sacks behind Chris Doleman in 38 fewer games played.
A reporter asked Hunter about the achievement following the game but was more concerned with the Vikings’ failure to close out the contests after the team fell to the Bengals by three points in overtime.
“That was a tough one. We prepared all week, and at the end of the game, we came up short and lost the turnover battle,” Hunter said, per Craig Peters of Vikings.com. “We’ve definitely got to get better at that.”