The Vikings recently restructured Hunter’s contract to put more cash in his pocket quicker than it otherwise would have arrived. With the restructure including a $18 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2022 league year, the clock is ticking on the Vikings’ decision to either keep Hunter on the roster for 2022 for $20 million, work out a new deal or release him.
This is a tough one. Hunter has been dominant when on the field, leading Minnesota with 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019. In fact, he has the most career sacks (54.5) of any player from the 2015 draft class even after missing the entire 2020 season due to a neck injury that required surgery. He has more career QB takedowns than ’15 draft classmates Frank Clark (49), Za’Darious Smith (44.5), Preston Smith (40.5) and Bud Dupree (39.5). However, on the pay scale, Hunter’s $14.5 million average annual value is greater than just Preston Smith’s from that group.
If Hunter returns to his usual form in 2021, there’s no doubt he deserves an extension and the security that comes with a long-term deal. If he can’t stay healthy, his leverage goes way down and I’d suspect the two parties to go their separate ways, but, as you can surmise from his inclusion on this list, I’m not expecting that outcome.