There is some question about Danielle Hunter’s future with the Vikings, but GM Rick Spielman has weighed in clearly.
The Minnesota Vikings’ defense fell off last season. One of the notable losses was defensive end Danielle Hunter, who missed the entire season with a neck injury. Without him, the Minnesota pass rush and defensive line lacked a difference-maker. Hence why it’s easy to give them a defensive end in the first round of April’s draft.
Head coach Mike Zimmer originally called Hunter’s injury a “small tweak.” At the time he had neck surgery, NFL Media reported the Vikings would have to decide to make Hunter the highest-paid defensive player or trade him before the 2021 season.
Rick Spielman has spoken about Danielle Hunter
As relayed by Pro Football Talk and the team website, Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman said “no” when asked if Hunter has asked the team to either make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league or trade him.
“From all indications of where he’s at in his rehab right now, I saw an Instagram picture of him yesterday. He looked pretty good. Excited to get him back here in the fold and get him going once we get started,” Spielman said.
Hunter’s contract runs through 2023. He’s due to make $12.15 in base salary this year, with a $17.25 million cap hit. Joey Bosa, at $27 million per year, carries the highest salary for a defensive player.
When Spielman speaks about not trading someone, let’s remember previous stances on Percy Harvin and Stefon Diggs (though it was softer in the latter case). It makes no sense to remove all leverage by saying publicly Hunter has made a pay me or trade me declaration, injury rehab progress aside. If anything noting he’s making good progress in rehab is a signal he’ll be fine for Week 1, and his trade value can thus be maximized if or when it comes to that.
An extension for Hunter seems more likely than a trade. But never say never on a trade, and what Spielman said about Hunter not asking for a trade or a new deal means nothing if teams calls.