Vikings Rumors: A New Defensive Starter, Hunter’s Helping Hand, & Clearing $10 Million Off the Books

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Though we’re now into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors aren’t as abundant, we’ll still be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the team welcoming a new defensive starter, giving Danielle Hunter a helping hand, and clearing a pile of cap room with a restructure.

The Vikings Rumors – 09.13.2023

Rumor #1 — The Vikings Officially Have a New Starter on Defense

A touch premature, perhaps, to fully get on board with that proclamation, but that’s how things are trending.

As previously discussed, the team opted to give Ivan Pace (the highly-praised UDFA) 46 snaps on defense versus Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, sophomore 3rd-round pick Brian Asamoah just had a pair of snaps on defense. The current evidence suggests Pace has the upper hand when it comes to running alongside Jordan Hicks as the team’s LB2.

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) reacts after making a stop against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Kevin O’Connell confirmed that he feels confident in his linebackers while discussing Pace: “[Pace] plays incredibly fast with his eyes and his reads and his discipline, and he’s just been a bonus to that linebacker room. We’ll continue to see that group take shape throughout the year. With him and BA [Brian Asamoah II] and Hicksy [Jordan Hicks] and TD [Troy Dye], I feel really good about that inside backer group.”

The Vikings have long had issues corralling mobile QBs. Jalen Hurts is next up on the schedule, so maybe the speedy Pace will be capable of slowing down Philly’s talented signal caller. Heck, there may even be instances when Pace alongside Asamoah gives Minnesota the best look since they young fellas move well. Keep an eye on this one, folks.

Rumor #2 — Danielle Hunter is Going to Get a Helping Hand on Thursday Night Football

Danielle Hunter played pretty well on Sunday.

Hunter finished his day with a sack, 2 TFLs, a PD, a QB hit, and 7 total tackles. Not an otherworldly performance on par with the dancing Myles Garrett (video) but a rock-solid performance. Just imagine what he can do if his running mate — Marcus Davenport — gets tossed back into the lineup.

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The head coach has some hope: “Yeah, hopefully, I’d like to think that we can get Marcus [Davenport] back in there and really pair those guys together in how we want to attack, either opposite sides, together, moving them around, but I thought Danielle was flying around.”

At various point, I’ve expressed that my personal philosophy for team building would involve collecting pass rushers like my team’s life depended on it. No need to stop at just one or two, the wise team invests until they’re bursting at the seams with players capable of getting after the QB. The point, valued reader, is simply that the more the merrier when it comes to pass rushers.

Rumor #3 — Minnesota Cleared a Pile of Money from their Salary Cap

Field Yates of ESPN offers the word, noting that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s team shaved off nearly $10 million in cap space by restructuring Brian O’Neill’s deal: “Contract restructures to create cap room on the eve of the season (all done on Saturday): Vikings OT Brian O’Neill: $9.99M created.”

Shortly thereafter, Yates points toward a couple other transactions around the NFL — one for Washington and another for Green Bay — but those aren’t as consequential for Minnesota fans.

Brian O'Neill
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The timing may seem odd, but it makes sense given what the Vikings were trying to accomplish. Up until the very last moment, Minnesota was looking to sign Justin Jefferson to a massive extension. Doing so would require more cap space in the immediate since the team’s budget didn’t have enough wiggle room to fit a sizable signing bonus within the 2023 finances.

Obviously, the Jefferson deal didn’t materialize, a disappointing result for everyone except fans of the other three teams in the NFC North. The positive is that unused cap space from the current season will roll over into next year, meaning the Vikings can add the total onto next year’s small mountain of space.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.