If there’s one thing Minnesota Vikings fans don’t want to hear, it’s Danielle Hunter’s name being mentioned in trade rumors. This, of course, comes after Chad Graff’s report stating the All-Pro is unhappy with his contract.
After failing to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks in 2020 sans Hunter, the Vikings simply cannot afford to go another year without their top pass-rusher. Taking a closer look at his contract situation, we look at why Minnesota would be making a huge mistake in trading their best young defensive player on the roster.
Trading Hunter would drastically hurt the Minnesota Vikings defense
When it was reported that Danielle Hunter would not suit up at all for the Vikings in 2020, the overall outlook of the season suddenly looked very dim. Without their most dominant d-lineman on the field, the defense was shredded.
Finishing the year with just 23 sacks as a team, the young, inexperienced secondary was left out on an island trying to cover receivers without much support from the front seven. This, after tallying the fifth-most sacks (48) in 2019, when Hunter was healthy.
In most scenarios, adding a premier pass-rusher would immediately become a top priority after finishing with the fifth-fewest sacks in 2020. For the Vikings, knowing that Hunter will be ready for training camp would normally be enough to help Rick Spielman sleep at night.
Instead, rumors suggest the organization is pondering a move that would decimate the freakish pass-rush potential of the Vikings’ d-line in 2021. No Danielle Hunter on the team would mean counting on defensive line guru Andre Patterson to quickly coach D.J. Wonnum into the closest version of Hunter possible.
While some Vikings fans may think that can easily be done due to their similar playing backgrounds, size, and measurables, the fact remains that Hunter himself worked his butt off to become the player he is. Even though coach Patterson is one of the best in the business, banking on finding another diamond in the rough to be as effective as one of the best pass-rushers since 2016 is borderline asinine.
How a trade could get Rick Spielman fired
This situation reminds me too much of when the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to the Bears for a king’s ransom. However, in that case, Mack was at the very top of his game. Whereas Hunter is coming off a herniated disk that caused him to miss a full season. Until a team sees him on the field again, Hunter’s value simply is not what it was before the injury.
For the Raiders, trading Mack proved to be a colossal mistake that they have yet to recover from nearly three years later. From the perspective of the Vikings and Rick Spielman, the very same thing could happen.
Sure, we can look at Spielman’s history of trading star players, he usually seems to come out as the “winner” in a deal. See Percy Harvin and Stefon Diggs. But replacing a young talent like Hunter is not the same as replacing Diggs, who frequently fueled his own trade rumors. Hunter is not a dime-a-dozen type of athlete. There is a reason why they call him the Madden Create-A-Player.
Of course, several teams would line up to acquire the Pro Bowl pass-rusher, but the ball is in the Vikings’ court.
Replacing Danielle Hunter’s production is no easy task
As the Vikings attempted last year, having someone try and fill in for Danielle Hunter is no easy task. Even trading for star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue turned out to have a minimal impact on the team’s success.
While the Vikings may have found another gem in the fourth round by drafting D.J. Wonnum, the three sacks he tallied are still half of what Hunter’s production was as a rookie. Wonnum even had more snaps. Though he may prove to be a great edge rusher, let’s pump the brakes on penciling Wonnum in to be a fair replacement for Hunter.
As it stands right now, new signee Dalvin Tomlinson is the most prolific pass-rusher on the roster not named Danielle Hunter and that should have Mike Zimmer frightened to start training camp. While Tomlinson was a great signing, the idea of having him, Michael Pierce, and Danielle Hunter all on the same line undoubtedly gives opponents nightmares. In other words, the organization would be better off doing whatever is necessary to keep Hunter wearing purple and gold for the rest of his life.