July 12, 2024

The Minnesota Vikings are facing significant challenges with their salary cap, prompting the need for significant roster changes. However, there is a consensus that among all free agents, the team must prioritize edge defender Danielle Hunter. According to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, Hunter is deemed the player the Vikings “can’t afford to lose” this offseason for various reasons.

Vikings, LB Danielle Hunter, agree on 1-year, $20M contract: Why this deal is significant - The Athletic

Spielberger emphasized that Minnesota’s defense, under the guidance of defensive coordinator Brian Flores, surpassed expectations given the overall talent level. Hunter stood out as the true game-changer around whom everything else revolved. In the last two seasons, Hunter has demonstrated his impact, ranking seventh in quarterback pressures with 150 and second in defensive stops with 89. Despite entering his ninth NFL season, Hunter, who will turn 29 in the first month, continues to be a formidable force for the team.

Vikings Will Incur $15 Million Cap Hit if Danielle Hunter’s Contract Voids

 

Hunter’s play isn’t the only reason losing him would cost Minnesota.

Zach Tom, Danielle Hunter

If the star defensive end for the Vikings decides to depart in free agency, his contract will void, leading to a substantial salary cap hit for the team, and they would lose the valuable services of Hunter.

Alec Lewis of The Athletic pointed out the similarity between Hunter’s situation and that of Kirk Cousins. Regardless of whether Hunter remains with the team or not, he will impact the Vikings’ salary cap space in 2024. If he leaves, the team would face a dead-cap hit of approximately $15 million. Lewis suggests that reaching an extension before Hunter’s contract voids in March could help by pushing money into the future, providing the Vikings with more flexibility in their 2024 cap space.

Before the 2023 season, there was an opportunity to secure a multiyear deal with Hunter, but negotiations between the front office and Hunter’s representation fell through. Instead, the Vikings opted to renegotiate the final year of his contract, raising the base pay to $17 million. Hunter’s overall compensation reached $20 million, including incentives, following an impressive season where he achieved a career-high 16.5 sacks and led the league with 23 tackles for loss.

Vikings Can Earn Cap Relief in 2024 by Re-Signing QB Kirk Cousins

 

Alec Lewis also addressed the situation with Kirk Cousins in his article, highlighting that Cousins will become a free agent if the Vikings do not extend his contract before the official start of free agency in mid-March. If the franchise opts not to re-sign Cousins, it would not only leave Minnesota without a definite answer at the quarterback position for the 2024 campaign but also result in a substantial cap hit of $28.5 million for the team in the upcoming season.

Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Minnesota Vikings

Interestingly, Lewis explained how signing Cousins and allocating more money to him can actually benefit the Vikings financially in the short term, despite raising concerns about long-term financial implications. This strategy may provide immediate relief or flexibility for the team’s current financial situation. However, it is important to consider the potential consequences and challenges that could arise in managing the team’s finances down the road.

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