Vikings smartly restructure Danielle Hunter’s contract, create prove-it year

Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have answered their biggest question ahead of mandatory minicamp, restructuring Danielle Hunter’s contract to make 2021 a prove-it year for him.

The biggest story line for the Minnesota Vikings this week heading into mandatory minicamp was surrounding defensive end Danielle Hunter. That question has been answered, with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting Hunter and the Vikings have agreed to a a restructured contract.

Hunter missed all of last season with a neck injury that Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer initially called a “tweak” After surgery in October, a report surfaced that Hunter may ask for a trade unless he got a new contract. He had not been at any OTAs up to this point, which only added to the story.

Hunter signed a five-year, $72 million contract in 2018. Over the following two seasons, he had 29 sacks and legitimately became one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. The top of the edge rusher market has also changed, with Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett making Hunter look like a bargain with a new money average of $14.4 million.

The Vikings did a smart restructure with Danielle Hunter

According to Rapoport, Hunter will get $5.6 million this year as a signing bonus. The new deal includes an $18 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2022 league year, creating a decision for the Vikings.

Hunter’s original contract ran through 2023, but that final year has now been clipped off to create a new four-year pact. Next March, the Vikings can release him or commit to pay him around $20 million in 2022.

There have been no indications of Hunter struggling in his recovery from neck surgery, but the nature of the injury creates questions. If he’s good to go this year and has another season like 2018 and ’19, the Vikings will (presumably) happily reward him with a new multi-year deal that reflects his market value. If he doesn’t, they can cut him by the fifth day of next league year and move on.

They make mistakes sometimes, but the Vikings continually put on a clinic for how teams should manage the salary cap. With Hunter, they’ve moved money into this year to pacify him, removed the final year of the original deal. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve essentially forced him to prove he’s healthy and worthy of a long-term investment after a significant injury.

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