So Long, Danielle: NFL Insiders Suggest that the Team’s Longstanding EDGE1 is Going Elsewhere

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates the win after the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

After the whopping deal for Jonathan Greenard (as reported by Tom Pelissero & Ian Rapoport), the Vikings may be officially moving on from Danielle Hunter.

An avalanche of NFL insiders nearly spoke in unison on the topic. Aaron Wilson offered these thoughts: “#Vikings are signing Jonathan Greenard as he leaves #Texans in free agency as the replacement for Danielle Hunter , per a league source.”

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) strip-sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) on Sunday, October 29, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Vikings won the game, 24-10.

Not to be outdone, Vikings beat writer Alec Lewis shared these thoughts in response to snagging Greenard: “A big move, securing a young edge with upside, likely to fill shoes of Danielle Hunter.”

The main numbers to remember for Greenard are age and price. Per Adam Schefter, the deal in Minnesota will land at 4 years and a total of $76 million, meaning the pass rusher finds himself with a $19 million average. In all likelihood, the 29-year-old Hunter will land more money that that.

Avalanche of NFL Insiders Say Danielle Hunter is Moving On

If the rumors are true, then Danielle Hunter’s dead money is going to lock into place. On Wednesday, the $14,906,667 is going to become an immovable dead money hit.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) after a sack in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Needing to digest so much dead money is never a good thing, but that possibility always existed given how Minnesota opted to resolve last offseason’s contract stalemate with the edge rusher.

Change was always very likely in Minnesota. A couple of months ago, Kevin O’Connell prophesied about adding more talent to Brian Flores’ defense. Greenard certainly qualifies. The former Texan was coming at 6th overall in the PurplePTSD Free Agency Board. Take a look at the blurb:

“There is going to be competition for Mr. Greenard. Every team in the NFL is interested in employing 26-year-old edge rushers capable of picking up 12.5 sacks (See: Huff, Bryce). His 22 QB hits from last season matches Danielle Hunter’s total and his 15 TFLs — while not on Hunter’s level — are similarly impressive. ESPN’s pass-rush win rate has Greenard in a tie for 6th overall among edge defenders. Of note: he piled up the gaudy stats while only playing 632 snaps.”

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Jets
Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back Dalvin Cook (33) is tackled by Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The issue, of course, is that saying “yes” to one option sometimes means saying “no” to another. Adding a 26-year-old with the potential to keep progressing in his game makes a pile of sense for the Vikings defense, but the deal may have come at the expense of Mr. Hunter’s ongoing employment in The Gopher State.

Keep in mind, though, that Minnesota remains in the competition to land more high-end defensive talent. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler provides the word: “#Vikings dedicated to improving the defense. The Jonathan Grennard agreement is a step. The Vikings have also shown interest in Christian Wilkins and have inquired on #Chiefs corner L’Jarius Sneed. A lot of options for Minnesota.”

So, there’s the potential for more major moves in Minnesota.

If he does leave, then Danielle Hunter will finish his Vikings career with 87.5 sacks after being a 3rd-round selection in 2015. In other words, he was an overwhelming success and should be remembered as one of the team’s best pass rushers.

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.