The Perfect Price for Danielle Hunter

A three-year deal involving $75 million. Good chance that’s where Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Danielle Hunter begin the conversation.

The 29-year-old is having an elite season. With 13.5 sacks, Hunter is in a tie for 1st place in the NFL. With 18 TFLs, Hunter stands alone in 1st place in the NFL. And, of course, we’ve all seen the veteran demonstrate tremendous hustle in run defense on various occasions. By no means a one-trick pony, Hunter is a menace when defending the run, as well.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) strip-sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) in the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports

The question, then, rests in how much it will cost to keep him around. One has to assume that several teams called about acquiring the pass rusher at the trade deadline, but the Vikings opted against moving him. Part of that decision comes down to an ongoing belief in their ability to be a playoff team during the current season but there’s also an indication that both sides think a new deal will come to fruition.

During training camp, Hunter said that his goal was to remain with the Vikings for the duration of his career. That desire means something, folks. And, of course, we remember a very important truth: as soon as the Vikings let go of Danielle Hunter, they’ll begin looking for someone exactly like Danielle Hunter. Keeping him seems like the better move, doesn’t it?

Add it all together and we’re left with the question about what a deal could look like.

What Will Danielle Hunter Get on his Next Contract?

Green Bay kept Rashan Gary – who is 26 – around until 2027 on deal that carries a $24 million average. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Montez Sweat – who is 27 – signed a deal that will keep him in the Windy City through the 2027 season. His contract comes alongside a $24.5 million average.

In Minnesota, the Vikings could very plausibly opt for a contract that carries a $25 million average. Doing so would be an obvious nod toward those other deals in the NFC North while acknowledging what’s plain to see: Hunter is better than both Gary and Sweat.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Now, there are factors other than just on-field ability. Hunter’s age and injury history are working against him. Those things will likely contribute toward him not climbing into the same range as someone like Nick Bosa, T.J. Watt, or Joey Bosa.

The sweet spot seems to be something within the range of $25 million per season for three or four years. That kind of deals offers some long-term stability without being too wild of a commitment for someone who will soon see a “3” in front of his age. A desire to see Hunter be kept around until 2027 – the critical year in the Gary and Sweat deals – would mean a four-year contract.

Maybe the significant detail, though, will be the guaranteed money that Hunter secures. The full guarantees for Gary comes in a bit below $35 million. For Sweat, the total is a touch below $42 million. Where will things land for Hunter?

NFL teams regularly ask their players to accept deals carrying no shortage of fake money, the kind of compensation that can really skew the annual average. A lot of players take pride in seeing their deal hit notable benchmarks – in Hunter’s case, an annual average coming in ahead of Sweat and Gary – but one wonders if the stronger draw will be bringing in hearty guarantees.

Grading the Vikings Position Groups: Defense
Dec 16, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Given Kwesi’s recent history, a contract that only offers three years of real commitment but five years of signing bonus stretching (a tactic that can be achieved through void years) may be the play. The Vikings would be able to kick over a hearty portion of guaranteed money via signing bonus while lessening the salary cap pain in the immediate.

Regardless of the finer details, a deal that’s somewhere around $25 million in annual average is the benchmark that people can be keeping in mind. Hunter could come in a touch above that number or maybe even a touch below, but the recent history suggests that’s right about where he’ll find himself.

If the season ended today, Hunter would be a frontrunner to snag an All Pro nomination. He has never been a first-team All Pro.

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.