Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

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Vikes Likely to Revise Hunter Contract


Danielle Hunter is the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive MVP. His value to the club is comparable to quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook.

But unlike Cousins and Cook, Hunter’s contract prompts concern about him remaining in Minnesota. The 26-year-old edge rusher is among the NFL’s best at what he does, but his contract doesn’t compare with peers at the position.

Could Hunter be a no-show at mandatory Viking practices this summer? Maybe, but it’s a smart bet the franchise does a redo on the $72 million contract that binds him to Minnesota through 2023. Head coach Mike Zimmer said today he hasn’t heard from Hunter who is absent from this week’s voluntary team activities.

Ownership, led by Zygi and Mark Wilf, have shown a commitment to win and spend money in support of facilities and players. They are passionate fans who want a Super Bowl team and have invested in U.S. Bank Stadium and Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, while improving contracts of players like Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen.

After missing last season with a neck injury, Hunter must show he is healthy and ready to resume peak performance. In 2018 and 2019 the former third round draft choice had consecutive seasons averaging 14.5 sacks. He established himself as a Pro Bowl quality pass rusher, with the promise of high production for many years.

Hunter’s edge rushing peers include seven players who have deals worth over $100 million. That’s per a July 20, 2020 story reporting on Joey Bosa’s $135 million new deal that came weeks after a $125 million contract for Myles Garrett. Hunter’s past performance exceeds players earning much more and he is more than a bargain—he’s a steal—with his current earnings.

NFL clubs are pushing their budgets on defensive ends because they can single handedly turn a game—or even a season—with a few crucial plays like sacking the quarterback or causing a fumble. In Hunter the Vikings have a talent who became the youngest player in NFL history to achieve 50 career sacks. He is also outstanding in defending the run.

The Wilfs aren’t likely to let a disgruntled Hunter force his way out of town. A revised and highly compensated new deal appears all but certain this year or next, unless an injury dictates otherwise.

Worth Noting

The current issue of Sports Illustrated offers a feature on Prince’s love of basketball including hosting a party after the 1994 NBA All-Star game in Minneapolis. At Paisley Park the flamboyant entertainer descended from the ceiling. “Something out of a movie,” Alonzo Mourning said in the article.

Target Center opened in 1990 and underwent extensive remodeling a few years ago but it doesn’t compare favorably with many of the “palaces” in the NBA. It could be potential new Minnesota Timberwolves owners will in a few years push for a new building, likely with the threat of relocating to another city.

In the late 1980s the Minnesota North Stars wanted about $11 million from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission to upgrade Met Center but it was a failed attempt. The franchise, under new ownership, relocated to Dallas in 1993. Long ago the Lakers left Minneapolis for Los Angeles because of lagging attendance and a facility issue.

Unruly fan behavior in the NBA has been making news of late. Anyone remember when what seemed like every Sunday in the 1960s someone threw a light bulb onto the floor at Boston Garden during national telecasts?

Gophers basketball coach Ben Johnson and staff remain in all-out recruiting mode to finalize next season’s roster that right now will struggle to compete in the Big Ten. Johnson is trying to shape a roster now and in future years with state of Minnesota players.

June and July are prime recruiting months for Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck and staff. Expect multiple verbal commits for the class of 2022 during the next several weeks. Minnesota’s class for next year, with five verbal commits, is currently ranked No. 35 nationally by 247Sports.

The Gophers’ subpar PAT and field goal kicking of last season will be much improved with the transfer of Kent State’s Matthew Trickett. As a sophomore in 2019 at Kent State he was first team All-MAC, and tied for the NCAA lead in field goals with 29. He had two game winning kicks. The Mid-American Conference cancelled its 2020 season due to the pandemic.

Bob Stein

Congratulations to former Gopher defensive end Bob Stein who will be inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame December 7 in Las Vegas. Stein made All-American in 1967 and was a key contributor to Minnesota’s last Big Ten championship team. The St. Louis Park native was also an Academic All-American. University of Minnesota alum Mark Sheffert and the late Pat Fallon, the Minneapolis advertising whiz, advocated for Stein’s overdue recognition by the NFF.

With two PGA vice presidents of rules and competition retiring, it will be interesting to see how that could positively impact former Gopher and Viking Mark Dusbabek. The Faribault native has been a PGA rules official since 2006.

The St. Thomas team that rallied to win three games over the Memorial Day weekend and earned its way to the Division III Baseball World Series, plays an opening game against Adrian starting at 1:15 p.m. Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Minnesota United, whose regular season schedule started in April and continues into November, has a long break after playing last Saturday with the next match June 19.

The Twin Cities Dunkers, after months of Zoom meetings, resumes in-person breakfasts in July with likely upcoming programs to include Gophers football and the 3M Open.

No update yet on a new contract for Gophers baseball coach John Anderson (see Monday’s Sports Headliners).

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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