Kwesi Confirms Teams Called about Trading for The Vikings’ Elite Pass Rusher

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Not too long into his recent presser, Kwesi confirms something that was predictable and yet still fascinating: several teams did call about prying away Danielle Hunter.

Going into the NFL’s trade deadline, there was no shortage of digital ink being spilled about the possibility of Minnesota moving on from Hunter. After all, the 29-year-old defender is going to be a free agent at the end of the season and would instantly upgrade the defense for 31 other teams. Anyone interested in an assassin-for-hire on the way up Mount Lombardi would be foolish not to inquire about the soft-spoken Jamaican.

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

Apparently, none of the offers were compelling enough to prompt Minnesota to move on from their most talented defender.

And, for whatever it’s worth, the NFL insiders were on this one leading up to the deadline. One thinks of Jeremy Fowler as an example. The ESPN insider sent out a tweet with this word: “Source: ‘Almost no chance’ #Vikings move Danielle Hunter at deadline.” Prudent, prophetic words from Mr. Fowler.

Kwesi Confirms Interest in Danielle Hunter

The GM danced around the topic a little bit, being cautious with how he phrased the interest in his best defensive player.

“I try and keep my calls with other teams confidential,” the GM notes, “but, look, he’s a talented pass rusher. He’d leading the league in sacks. There’s going to be phone calls, whether it’s just parts of conversation or more directed. But ultimately we decided what we decided and we’re ready to go for it.”

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Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sport.

Indeed, the long & strong Danielle Hunter is perched above all challengers in the sack race, leading the NFL with 10 across his opening eight games. Even more impressive is that he’s also leading the charge with a dozen TFLs.

Clearly, Hunter has found a way of making plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Part of what makes the reality even more impressive is that he hasn’t exactly had a ton of help. True, Brian Flores is well-known for his blitzing ways, but the team largely hasn’t had a running mate worthy of being Hunter’s counterpart. Last season, Za’Darius Smith was that person, demanding attention from the other team in a way that players like D.J. Wonnum and/or Patrick Jones don’t.

Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (99) and Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Marcus Davenport was supposed to be that player, but he has once again succumbed to injury. The former Saint has only been able to pickup 118 defensive snaps, a small number when placed alongside Hunter’s 463 snaps. The discrepancy will only worsen in the coming weeks.

Consider a baseball analogy. When a team only has a single dangerous bat in the lineup, the pitcher can work around that player. Putting him on base with an intentional walk is of little consequence if there isn’t a dangerous hitter ready to step into the batter’s box. A similar rationale applies for pass rushers. When a team just has a single sack merchant, the pass protection can overload to that person’s side since there isn’t much of a threat elsewhere.

Even with that reality existing, though, Danielle Hunter is still leading the NFL in sacks and TFLs. Remarkable stuff for the purveyor of pass rush.

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

Currently, the defender is playing on the final year of his deal while carrying a cap charge sitting at a touch below $21 million. The Vikings and Hunter arrived at that compensation after a hold-in at training camp where Hunter was present but not participating due to concerns about his deal.

Keeping the veteran in Minnesota for 2024 and beyond is likely to come with an annual average somewhere around $25 million. No doubt, it’s a steep price, and yet the basic reality is that as soon as the Vikings move on from Danielle Hunter, they’ll begin searching for someone exactly like Danielle Hunter.

More sensible, perhaps, would be to keep him around, especially since pass rushers can be very productive going into their 30s. Minnesota’s decision to hold onto Hunter suggests there’s interest all around in keeping the defender in town via an extension.

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.