The hits keep coming for the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. They have been one of the worst teams in the NFL so far, coming out of the gates with a 1-5 record.
On Thursday they traded superstar defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens, and now fellow superstar defensive end Danielle Hunter is officially out for the year according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
The #Vikings had been optimistic in August that DE Danielle Hunter could rehab and return. Instead, he'll undergo season-ending neck surgery.
So at 1-5, Minnesota now has lost both its top pass rushers: Yannick Ngakoue traded to Baltimore, and Hunter done for the season.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 22, 2020
Hunter had not appeared in a game in 2020 yet due to injury. As Pelissero pointed out in his tweet though, the Vikings were optimistic he could return this year. However, that dream is clearly over.
You have to assume the 1-5 start to the season has really made some decisions easy, though. It is clear that Minnesota has decided to start making some moves with the Ngakoue trade. So bringing Hunter back in a “lost” season probably did not seem like a smart idea.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport suggests Hunter could be gone in the near future.
#Vikings star Danielle Hunter is having surgery to clean up a herniated disc, knocking him out for 2020, per me & @TomPelissero. MIN has a decision this offseason: Make Hunter the highest-paid defender in football or trade him. Have we seen the last of him in a Vikings uniform👀
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2020
Admittedly this one is a little confusing. Hunter is actually under contract through the 2023 season. Not only that, but he will be making over $11 million in each of the next three seasons. So it's not like he is not getting paid that much money.
But Rapoport might have a point here. Hunter is elite. He has 54.5 sacks through just five seasons. That is over 10 sacks a year and includes a 12.5 sack season in 2016 and back-to-back 14.5 sack seasons in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, he is a superstar.
With that in mind, Hunter likely wants to be the highest paid (or close to the highest paid) defensive lineman in all of football.
While his current contract is strong, it could use a bump if that's what he is going for.
With Ngakoue gone and the Vikings' defense struggling without Hunter this year, it is even more noticeable just how important he is to their future. So Rapoport may be on to something.
Hunter is out for the year, hopefully he can recover and return back healthy and better than ever. Could he be playing for a new team the next time we see him on the field though?