If the Vikings intend to be competitive in the coming season, they need to make a new contract deal with star pass rusher Danielle Hunter. Worthy of inclusion among the NFL’s best at pressuring the quarterback, Hunter is in the last year of his contract and is too valuable to an already suspect defense to be without.
“You look at the depth chart right now, you definitely need Danielle’s presence on defense… so we’ll see if they can figure out a way to make it work,” said Daniel House who spends countless hours analyzing the Vikings and NFL, and publishes the Mnvikngscorner.com website.
No doubt the Vikings have tested Hunter’s trade appeal with other teams but unless they could acquire an impressive defensive return, they are better off with Hunter who had a bounce back season in 2022 with 10.5 sacks (14.5 in both 2018 and 2019). The 28-year-old is a valuable piece in a new start under first-year defensive coordinator Brian Flores who is expected to put an emphasis on speed and aggressive play to accomplish his task of improving a weak defense from last season.
House predicts the defense will play with creativity and sometimes implement pass rushing mismatches favoring Hunter. “It’ll just be a way more aggressive defense, which I think helps everybody involved.”
To satisfy Hunter it likely will require a contract in the $16 million to $20 million range annually for three or four years. A sticky point is how much money will be guaranteed. Hunter has a history of injuries, and the Vikings will want to protect themselves, while Hunter’s representatives are expected to pursue guaranteed money.
Hunter’s camp has signaled its displeasure with a 2023 salary believed to be about $5 million, and the lack of progress on a new contract. The message came through with the absence of the veteran from both voluntary and mandatory workouts this spring. Unless the Vikings have reason for serious concern about Hunter’s health or have cooked up an acquisition of equal talent, they need to settle on a contract in the coming weeks.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell expressed admiration for Hunter last week both as a player and person. He added that “we hope to have continued dialogue and have a really positive outcome.”
Preseason recognition of multiple University of Minnesota football players continues to grow. Last week Phil Steele Publications honored seven Gophers including safety Tyler Nubin who was named a third-team All-American. Nubin and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford also were honored as first-team All-Big Ten.
Wide receiver Daniel Jackson, tackle Aireontae Ersery and punt returner Quentin Redding were named second team All-Big Ten on offense. Redding was also honored on a All-Big Ten fourth team as a kick returner along with long snapper Brady Weeks. Quinn Carroll, Minnesota offensive tackle, was also a fourth team honoree.
Last month Athlon Sports honored nine Gophers including wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell who was named second team All-Big Ten. Because of additional eligibility granted to him, Autman-Bell is approaching his seventh season at Minnesota. The Vikings have only 10 players on their roster who this fall will have played seven or more seasons in the NFL.
Beleaguered former Timberwolves GM David Kahn, now a force in French basketball, is the subject of a feature in the new issue of Sports Illustrated and insists he left the Wolves “in a much, much better place than when I arrived.”
With a 35-year-old starting point guard in Mike Conley, logic suggests the Timberwolves could use their only selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft to take Nadir Hifi at No. 53 in the second round. He plays in France and the 6-3, 20-year-old might be a sleeper in this week’s draft.
Jonathan Mekonnen, the Eastview class of 2024 basketball wing, picked up an offer from Loyola Chicago last week. Power Five offers could be coming soon.
USC, who sources believe was interested in Gophers AD Mark Coyle in 2019, has a vacancy again.
Paul Molitor, who some Twins fans think should still be the club’s manager, was terrific in his analyst role recently on radio broadcasts. His knowledge had listeners aware of what just happened, why it happened and what likely was developing next in the game. He would be a superb addition to the roster of radio and TV analysts.
Jim Kaat, the former Twin who for years set the gold standard for baseball commentary during games here and nationally, isn’t working Twins games this year. Kaat, 84 and inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last year, pitched for the Twins and tight wad owner Calvin Griffith from 1961-1973. “Calvin threw nickels around like manhole covers,” Kaat said years ago.
Kaat spoke Friday to the popular Twin Cities Dunkers organization that just closed off nominations for review in July, with 40 applicants and five spots open.
Darren Wolfson reported on Skor North that Wild GM Bill Guerin is interested in filling the assistant coaching vacancy with someone having head coach experience. That could set up an interesting dynamic with head coach Dean Evason whose teams haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Happy Father’s Day! Anyone remember this quote from the late Erma Bombeck? “When I was a little kid, a father was like the light in the refrigerator. Every house had one, but no one really knew what either of them did once the door was shut.”