5 bold predictions for the rest of the Vikings 2021 offseason

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) Brian O'Neill
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) Brian O'Neill /
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Minnesota VIkings
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Danielle Hunter /

Hunter will have to wait for his contract extension

While O’Neill won’t have to wait long for his next contract, Danielle Hunter is in a different situation.

For all the money that was dumped into the Vikings’ defense this offseason, they won’t go anywhere without Hunter. The 27-year-old collected 14.5 sacks in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons but missed the 2020 season with a neck injury. With Yannick Ngakoue leading the way (for six games), Minnesota recorded just 23 sacks last season.

Hunter’s importance to the defense would suggest the Vikings should try to lock him up as soon as possible. But while he’s worthy of becoming the highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL, there are other factors that will give Minnesota hesitation.

The biggest question mark is Hunter’s health. Given the severity of his neck injury, it’s possible that Hunter may not be as effective as he was in the past. That may seem preposterous, but Mike Hughes seemed to have a promising future before breaking his neck late in the 2019 season. After struggling to stay on the field, Hughes was traded to Kansas City last May.

That’s not to suggest Hunter will be on the same path as Hughes, but it complicates the decision to give him an extension. That’s why instead of just paying Hunter, the Vikings decided to give him $5.3 million of his salary as a signing bonus to make sure he’s on the field. If Hunter produces, the two sides can revisit Hunter’s contract situation next offseason when he’s due an $18.5 million roster bonus.

Minnesota has done a great job over the years of rewarding their players for their performance. While they would probably like to sign Hunter long-term, the factors surrounding that decision make this a wait-and-see situation.