The Vikings have agreed to a five-year extension with defensive end Danielle Hunter, as reported by NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Pelissero said on Twitter that he believes the deal will be worth around $72 million over the five-year span.
Danielle Hunter is still only 23 years old. My understanding is it's a 5-year extension that will pay Hunter around $14M per year — top-10 defensive end money. #Vikings
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 27, 2018
Though there have been indications that the Vikings and Hunter have been working on a deal in the offseason, the extension coming this early is a bit of a surprise. As a highly productive 23-year-old pass rusher, Hunter figured to earn a massive contract in 2019. His $14 million a year is still top-10 money for his position. But with a double digit sack year in 2018, Hunter could have been in position to set the market. Some estimated he would make as much as $18 million a year if he hit free agency as a 24-year-old.
As it turns out, Hunter took a bit of a discount to stay in Minnesota. Expensive as his extension may look, it is actually quite favorable for the Vikings. Hunter’s production for his youth is historically elite. His 25.5 sacks before age 24 are 10th all-time among defensive ends. And with his birthday not arriving until after week eight, he could end up as high as fifth on that list.
Plus, with the Vikings still in need of extensions for Anthony Barr and Stefon Diggs, every penny they can save for other deals will help. The prevailing assumption (or at least, the prevailing desire among fans) is that Diggs is next in line for a deal. As it appears now, Barr and possibly Trae Waynes could be the odd men out moving forward. Waynes will be under contract through 2019, but after that, there may be no room.
But as this offseason has indicated, few things truly go as predicted. Eric Kendricks and Hunter getting extensions before Diggs and Barr is a bit of a surprise to those who have followed the Vikings’ contract situation recently. However, Minnesota has clearly emphasized locking up young pieces of the defense. Whether Barr and Waynes will be included in that long-term is to be seen.
In the meantime, the Vikings will at least keep their talented defensive line corps in tact. Hunter and Everson Griffen were lethal the last two years for opposing defenses and that pair will not be split up any time soon.
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