Could Danielle Hunter become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player?

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) Danielle Hunter
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) Danielle Hunter /

Looking ahead, how much would the Minnesota Vikings be willing to spend to keep the pass rusher around?

Despite only notching a total of seven sacks in his first year as a full-time starter for the Minnesota Vikings back in 2017, the team still decided to reward Danielle Hunter with a lucrative contract extension during the following offseason.

Hunter and the Vikings agreed to a five-year, $72 million extension in 2018 and since then, all he’s done is accumulate 29 sacks in his last two seasons and emerge as one of the top defensive ends in the league.

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs and defensive lineman Chris Jones reportedly agreed to a four-year extension worth $80 million and the Cleveland Browns reportedly gave defensive end Myles Garrett a five-year, $125 million extension. Garrett’s deal makes him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, but could Hunter take over that title one day?

How much would the Minnesota Vikings be willing to pay Danielle Hunter to keep him in purple forever?

The cost for a premier pass rusher certainly went up on Tuesday with the reported extensions that were handed out to Jones and Garrett. It’s something that Minnesota should be paying close attention to.

Currently, Hunter has four years remaining on his contract with the Vikings including the upcoming season. He has a cap hit of just $9 million this year and then in both 2021 and 2022, his cap hit jumps to $17 million.

If the young Minnesota pass rusher continues to put up numbers like he did in 2018 and 2019, how long will it be before he will be looking for a new deal?

Hunter doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s only in the NFL to get paid, but he’s also smart enough to know that he’s capable of making much more than what his current deal is paying him.

So let’s say he puts up 15 sacks in both the upcoming season and in 2021. What would prevent him from attempting to re-work his contract and end up as the highest-paid defensive player in the league?

During the last two years of his current deal, he’s only scheduled to make $12 million in cash. There’s a good chance that won’t even be top-10 defensive end money by the time 2022 comes around.

Depending on how well the league is able to financially recover from the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, top pass rushers could be looking to make around $30 million per year when we get to the 2022 offseason.

Is this an amount that the Vikings would be willing to pay Hunter if he is able to continue to perform at the high level that he displayed on the field during the last two seasons? He will only be 27-years-old at the start of the 2022 offseason, so one would imagine he would still have plenty of good football left in him at that point in time.

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Of course, a lot will factor into whether Minnesota would be willing to make Hunter the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history or not. But it’s something the Vikings need to start thinking about if they want to keep the young pass rusher in purple for his entire career.