The 2023 season seemed like something of a dream for the Minnesota Vikings and their long-suffering fans. However, that dream came to an abrupt ending when they lost their Wild Card playoff game to an ordinary New York Giants team.

The Vikings rolled to a 13-4 regular-season record, and they were able to seize control of the NFC North early in the season and win the division without a problem. However, the Vikings had one of the worst defensive showings of any team in the NFL, ranking 31st in yardage allowed.

That defense, coached by Ed Donatell, was taken apart by the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers in the regular season. It got worse in the postseason, as the Giants tore apart the Vikings defense.

The Vikings dropped a 31-24 decision at U.S. Bank Stadium as New York quarterback Daniel Jones dissected the Minnesota defense by completing 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions.

Donatell was looked at as the scapegoat for the Vikings, as his soft defense simply did not pressure opposing quarterbacks throughout the season.

The Vikings have replaced Donatell with a much more aggressive defensive coordinator in Brian Flores. While that move should help, it is not even close to a solution.

The Vikings have had poor showings on defense for each of the last 3 seasons, and Donatell was only with the team in 2022. Prior to that, former head coach Mike Zimmer was in charge, and he was considered one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.

The biggest problem with the Vikings is their personnel. They don’t have a defensive star who will take over a game with the force of his will.

Danielle Hunter needs to go

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There is no doubt that Hunter has been one of the best defensive players in recent Vikings history. He was at his best in the 2018 and 2019 seasons when he registered 14.5 sacks in each of those seasons.

However, Hunter was a non-factor in 2020 and 2021 when injuries prevented him from impacting the defense. He did not play at all due to a neck injury in 2020 and he was limited to 7 games in the 2021 season.

He was deemed healthy and ready to play in 2022 and he did end up as the team’s leading sacker with 10.5 quarterback traps. However, that figure is very misleading. When he was at his best in 2018 and ’19, Hunter took over games and inspired fear in the opposition.

That was not the case this season as he was often hard to locate on the field in multiple games. He seemed to come on in the latter part of the year when he had 3.5 sacks in the final 4 regular-season games and he added 1 more in the playoff loss to the Giants. But it simply was not enough.

Sending a message

There can be no sacred cows on the Minnesota defense as Flores, head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah prepare for the 2023 season. While Hunter has talent, he is not the player he once was, and the Vikings need to come to that conclusion.

Hunter is scheduled to earn $5.5 million in 2023, and that is the last year he is under contract with the team. It’s also not a lot of cash by current standards.

The Vikings will send a message to the rest of the defense that mediocrity will not be tolerated by parting company with Hunter. Perhaps Hunter could be traded, but if not, cutting him will be the best alternative.

There are probably a number of Vikings defensive players that should be cut. But getting rid of Hunter will demonstrate that the team doesn’t accept players who used to be superstars. It will help get the best effort of the players who remain on the roster.