Much of the discourse over the last month or so in the NFL has surrounded stars disgruntled with their respective teams. Much to the chagrin of Green Bay Packers fans, Aaron Rodgers is responsible for a lot of the league news, given his painfully obvious frustrations with the publicly-owned franchise. Rodgers has only been one-upped by Julio Jones, who made headlines after his surprise appearance on Undisputed last week.
Needless to say, both the Packers and Atlanta Falcons aren’t loving this sort of media attention. There’s not a single franchise that would, and while the Vikings aren’t dealing with it now, that doesn’t mean they won’t soon.
The absence of Danielle Hunter shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The 26-year-old defensive end has made abundantly clear his wishes to restructure his current contract, which pays him around $14.4 million annually.
History shows us that Rick Spielman has been more than willing to reevaluate contracts to make his players happy, which makes it all the more confounding that Hunter hasn’t gotten his yet.
He’s coming off an injury that sidelined him for the entirety of last season, and there hasn’t been a ton of new information that’s come out of Minnesota regarding his status. Luke Braun wrote about the vagueness surrounding this injury and what the inherent risks are with it.
There’s no doubt that Hunter’s injury history complicates his desire to restructure his deal. With that being said, Hunter has already cemented himself as one of the top edge rushers in the league at the age of 26, and he’s risen to the upper echelons of Vikings linemen, ranking eighth in career sacks in franchise history.
Add on the fact that Minnesota doesn’t have a single proven pass-rusher besides him, and it complicates things further. Whether or not Spielman wants to, he’s going to have to roll the dice on Hunter if he wants the Vikings to be competitive this season. I’m not sure if this will comfort fans at all, but Hunter will absolutely be rewarded with a restructured deal because the Vikings cannot afford to be without him if they want to compete this season.
With all of the moves made in free agency, it’s abundantly clear that Minnesota believes that it can be a contender now, and there’s not a chance that they don’t shell out for their cornerstone edge rusher.
If that doesn’t assuage Vikings fans’ concerns, fear not because there is an even bigger reason that’ll keep Hunter happy. It’s every salary cap nerd’s favorite day of the year: June 1st.
For those not in the loop, the Vikings collected more than $7 million in cap space today, bringing their total all the way up to $13,914,686. This will make room for Spielman to search for an additional veteran to add to the squad. More importantly, it clears the runway for Hunter to put pen to paper and ink a new deal.
What the deal looks like remains to be seen. The Vikings have kept any rhetoric regarding Hunter pretty low-key. They could either go the route of giving him an incentive-laden contract with big paydays for sacks or a more traditional guaranteed deal. Regardless, Minnesota has a lot of room to work with, and there’s zero chance they let this contract situation get out of control. Spielman has always been open to revisiting contracts for players who are performing well, and this won’t be any different.
So fear not, Vikings fans, this won’t be a Rodgers or Jones situation. You won’t be turning the television to ESPN on some random day and see a sensationalistic headline regarding Hunter’s displeasure. An absence in OTAs means we have to talk about it, but in reality, in a situation like Hunter’s, it doesn’t mean much at all. While most players cash in on their bonus, there are plenty who don’t.
For example, Cam Dantzler wasn’t seen at OTAs, but that shouldn’t be a reason to immediately worry about his status with the team. Hunter’s situation is different in fairness, but the point stands that his OTA absence shouldn’t concern the Minnesota faithful.
He’s an integral cog that turns Zimmer’s defensive wheel, and, frankly, Minnesota will be in big trouble if he’s not on the field this season.