Smith, O’Neill, and Hunter will all get paid
One thing that has gotten the Vikings in trouble with the salary cap is their tendency to dole out contract extensions this time of the year. Although it seems like Minnesota executive vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski is a wizard when it comes to the salary cap, it tends to have its limits as the team has basically put these contracts on the company credit card.
Despite the long-term effects of these deals, there’s a good chance that Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill, and Danielle Hunter could all see new contracts this offseason if Brzezinski can fit them under the cap.
O’Neill is the youngest of the group, but the 25-year-old (who will turn 26 in September) is one of the few building blocks the Vikings have on the offensive line. It’s unlikely that O’Neill will get top of the line money, but he expects to get a good chunk of change considering his importance to Minnesota’s offense.
Smith may be a surprise to some, but he continues to be one of the Vikings’ most valuable pieces on Mike Zimmer’s defense. Smith graded 15th among qualifying safeties this season per PFF and with no guaranteed money remaining on his contract, Minnesota will likely try to do something to create salary-cap relief and make him a Viking for the remainder of his career.
The most interesting name in the group is Hunter, who missed the 2020 season with a neck injury. After going under the knife, his agent expressed that his client would like to be paid like one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. But the 26-year old also has three years remaining on his contract.
In previous situations, Minnesota has done whatever they’ve needed to do to keep their star players happy. For a defense whose sack leader wasn’t even on the team past Week 6, doing the same with Hunter feels like a wise choice.