(Eagan, MN) — The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms on a
five-year contract extension with Danielle Hunter, making him one
of the top 10 highest-paid defensive ends in the NFL while securing
another core player before he could reach free agency.
The deal, which was done on Wednesday, is worth up to $72 million,
according to a person with knowledge of the contract who spoke on
condition of anonymity because the terms weren’t disclosed by the
The deal includes $40 million in guaranteed money, with a $15
million signing bonus. The annual average worth is more than $14
million, on par with fellow Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
”I had to get this out of the way,” Hunter said, acknowledging
relief to have signed before training camp. ”I didn’t want to be
bothered by anything.”
Hunter has 25+ sacks, three forced fumbles and two recovered
fumbles in three seasons, after being drafted in the third round in
2015 out of LSU. Still only 23 years old, Hunter was a top priority
to retain at a premium position. Griffen is 30, and primary backup
Brian Robison is 35.
”Just looking forward to getting him locked in and what he’s going
to continue to bring not only to this defense and this football
team, but also the type of character that he brings,” general
manager Rick Spielman said.
Over those past three seasons, Hunter and Griffen have combined for
57 sacks, the second most by a pair of teammates in the league
behind Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap of the Cincinnati Bengals (58).
The pass rush and run defense provided by these bookends has been a
significant part of coach Mike Zimmer’s unit that gave up the
fewest points and yards in the NFL last season.
”We build a bond together on defense,” Hunter said. ”We go out
there, we know we’re brothers. We fight together. We do our
assignments. On and off the field we’re really, really close.
Hunter was third in the NFL with 12+ sacks in 2016, the most by a
defensive end. Born in Jamaica and raised just outside of Houston,
the 6-foot-5, 252-pound Hunter was a classic late bloomer the
Vikings targeted with confidence he’d continue to develop with the
right coaching to complement his measurable physical skills.
Spielman and his scouts have been proven right with that pick.
”I kind of came in with the mindset of just playing football. I
had a whole bunch of people in front of me, older guys that were
able to show me the way, good coaches and a good coaching staff,”
Hunter said. ”The only thing I could do is just come in here and
focus and play football.”
The Vikings extended middle linebacker Eric Kendricks earlier this
offseason. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr and wide receiver Stefon
Diggs are their other two standouts on expiring contracts, with
space under the salary cap dwindling. Signing both of them to new
long-term deals might not be possible.
They’re plenty happy to at least have Hunter around well into the
next decade, though. According to statistics compiled by Vikings
coaches, Hunter also has 125 quarterback hurries and 147 total
tackles. He has never missed an NFL game to injury, with his only
two absences coming in 2015 when he was on the inactive list in the
first month of his rookie year.
”It’s all about keep continuing to improve my game. I’ve got to go
out there and do what the coaches tell me to do. Now that I have
this I can’t relax,” Hunter said. ”I have to keep pounding and