Before the season began, Vikings fans thought the team’s pass rush would have both Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue. Currently and for the rest of the year, the Vikings will have neither.
On the same day the Vikings traded Ngakoue to the Ravens, news has emerged that Hunter will have season-ending surgery. According to NFL Media, Hunter will have a procedure aimed at repairing a herniated disc in his neck.
The injury, repeatedly dubbed a “tweak” by coach Mike Zimmer in the preseason, derails a promising career that saw Hunter rack up 54.5 sacks in five seasons.
The question now becomes whether his next season will happen in Minnesota. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media says that the Vikings will have to decide in the offseason whether to make Hunter the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL or trade him.
The Vikings, however, have Hunter under contract for three more years. They could choose to keep him, or to adjust his contract in a way that doesn’t make him the highest-paid defensive player in football.
With the salary cap possibly slipping to $175 million next year, the notion of the Vikings or anyone else paying Hunter $27 million or more per year becomes a stretch. It becomes even harder for the Vikings, who have plenty of money tied up in plenty of other players.