Danielle Hunter Keeps Making Plays; Danielle Hunter Keeps Getting Paid

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

How much is Danielle Hunter worth? Every penny.

During the summer, the EDGE1 staged a hold-in at Vikings training camp. Doing so allowed him to split the middle between refusing to play and actually playing. Hunter could be in the building with his teammates while building toward the season. He did so while refusing to get onto the field, putting more pressure on the team’s management to beef up his contract. One has to assume that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah — the GM who espouses the merits of a competitive rebuild — appreciated his defender’s effort to find a middle ground in the protest for a new deal.

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert (24) runs the ball as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) makes the tackle during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The plan worked. The soft-spoken Jamaican “agreed to a new one-year deal that can be worth up to $20 million” (per ESPN).

As the Vikings head into their Week 13 bye, Hunter sits on 13.5 sacks and 18 TFLs. Both are sitting at 1st overall in the NFL (though, admittedly, the sack total sits in a tie for the top spot). Those numbers are good enough to unlock the money available within his contract.

Danielle Hunter’s Pay & Play

The word comes from Field Yates, who sent out an update following Hunter’s sack on Justin Fields in Week 12: “Not only did Danielle Hunter force a fumble on that play, he recorded a half sack and earned another $1M incentive.”

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is pursued by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

A clean million for a half sack. Not bad, right?

In truth, the bonus is the culmination of a full season of excellent play. The veteran has started every game for the Minnesota Vikings in 2023. At 29, he hasn’t slowed down at all. If anything, he’s still getting better.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (1) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) as guard Luke Goedeke (67) attempts to block during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Danielle Hunter’s career high for sacks sits at 14.5 in a single season. He accomplished the feat in both 2018 and 2019. Injuries undermined his ability to replicate those gaudy totals in 2020 and 2021. And, to be sure, there was significant doubt surrounding whether Hunter could return to his dominant form from those previous seasons.

Fast forward to 2022 and Hunter was back to playing well. By the end of the Ed Donatell season — an infamous year in Minnesota — the pass rusher had 10.5 sacks. So, a more than respectable amount and yet somehow a bit modest for a player who is used to such dominance.

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

Working with Brian Flores has certainly helped the defender. The blitzing wizard regularly sends an extra defender. One has to think that makes life a touch easier for the pass rusher since the opposition’s blockers can’t be so focused on the threat off of the edge.

He’s heading toward free agency at the end of the year, so more than a few people in Minnesota are hoping that an extension can be sorted out before other teams get to start flirting with the long & strong defender.

The Vikings are scheduled to have a touch below $52 million in cap space for 2024. Crucially, that projection already accounts for Hunter carrying a $14.9 million cap charge into next year’s budget.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

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.