June 25, 2024

After the five-year, $72 million contract extension that Hunter signed in 2018 expires, he will become a free agent. Hunter has established himself as one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers following two season-ending injuries. He might pursue the nine-figure salary he deserves after recording 26.5 sacks over the previous two seasons, including a career-high 16.5 sacks last year.

A team would normally place a player like Hunter at the top of its priority list. However, you haven’t followed the Minnesota Vikings if you believe it to be true.

Additionally, Kirk Cousins is scheduled to become a free agency. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Minnesota is “holding” talks with Hunter until they resolve the quarterback problem. However, Hunter might go if it is decided to de-prioritize after several years of haphazard fixes.
Everyone is aware of Hunter’s efforts to close a huge deal. With 25.5 sacks in his first three seasons, his original extension seemed like a decent deal for the Vikings. But when Hunter recorded 14.5 sacks in 2018, he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and made the second team All-Pro, thus it turned into a steal.

The breakout and the growing value of pass-rushers in the modern NFL coincided. Having a freak on the edge became increasingly important for coaching staffs across the league as quarterbacks grew more fluid. Those who achieved free agency received incentives.

The Chicago Bears acquired Khalil Mack from the Las Vegas Raiders and signed him to a six-year, $140 million contract a few months after Hunter inked his extension in 2018. The Detroit Lions awarded Trey Flowers a five-year contract for $90 million in 2019. Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract agreement in 2020. Joey Bosa inked a five-year, $135 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Chargers a few weeks later.

Hunter may have reached a breaking point at some time, but it’s unclear if he felt pressure to return to the negotiation table after witnessing his contemporaries sign massive contracts. Adam Thielen’s contract was renegotiated by the Vikings in the past when he went over the terms of his 2017 four-year, $19.2 million deal. Before the 2019 season, Thielen agreed to a four-year, $64.8 million contract after playing in two Pro Bowls. Before the 2022 season, he further modified his deal by adding a $44.6 million, three-year extension.

There were other agreements before Thielen’s. In 2019, the Vikings used salary cap maneuvers to acquire Anthony Barr back. However, after recording an additional 14.5 sacks, making his second Pro Bowl, and being selected to the first team of the All-Pro team in 2019, Hunter’s argument had some merit. Unfortunately, the Vikings had other choices to make as usual.

After defeating the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 playoffs, the Vikings signed Cousins to a two-year, $66 million contract extension. Dalvin Cook, who inked a five-year, $63 million contract on the eve of the 2020 season, was another expense Minnesota had to pay. Hunter eventually consented to a reorganization that converted his base pay into a signing bonus, but not before his contract drama had carried into OTAs.

Hunter’s neck injury a few months later prevented him from playing in 2020. He again waited out for a better offer from OTAs. In order to add a $5.6 million signing bonus, two void years, and a $18 million roster bonus in 2022, the Vikings altered his contract once more.

Later that year, after T.J. Watt signed a four-year, $112 million deal agreement with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the market began to blow up. Hunter made a comeback, recording six sacks in seven games prior to rupturing his pectoralis muscle. Although the $18 million bonus appeared to be a death sentence for the front office of Minnesota, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah paid the payment in order to turn things around for 2022.

Hunter recorded 10.5 sacks in his first healthy season since 2019. However, Ed Donatell sometimes miscast him as a covering linebacker. When Bradley Chubb was signed by the Miami Dolphins to a five-year, $110 million contract after being acquired around the trade deadline, the market saw yet another surge. Hunter pressed for a fresh agreement once more.

However, the Vikings were going through a change. For future flexibility, they let go of Eric Kendricks, Cook, and Thielen. Hunter wanted a new contract, but the front management wanted to maintain their options, so they came to an agreement on a $20 million, one-year contract that included incentives and a no-franchise-tag condition that would expire at the end of the season.

Hunter had a great career year under Brian Flores and is finally moving toward free agency. However, given Minnesota’s other springtime goals, a new deal isn’t a given.

The Vikings want to be “super competitive” or “in the hunt” every year, thus holding the quarterback position is crucial to their success. The quarterback position’s delicate balance has previously been brought up by Adofo-Mensah. For the remainder of the offseason, shockwaves will emanate from any decision he makes on Cousins.

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