1. The NY Jets could trade for Danielle Hunter
The Jets hope to finally get prized 2021 free-agent acquisition, Carl Lawson, on the field in 2022. A healthy Lawson would certainly help aid what has been a dormant pass rush for the Jets for several years. But what if the Jets had the opportunity to pair Lawson with another elite edge rusher in Vikings standout Danielle Hunter?
With Gang Green picking fourth in this year's draft, it's unlikely, barring a trade-up, that the team will land potential pass-rushing superstars Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson. The Jets' goal-line stand in their late-season victory against the Jaguars assured that.
So that puts New York in a precarious position, where acquiring a young premium pass rusher to pair with Lawson will be challenging.
There are several choke points when it comes to acquiring star players from other NFL teams. Firstly, do you have the cap space to add on a premium salaried player? And secondly, do you have the draft capital to facilitate a deal? The answer to both those questions for New York is a resounding yes.
The question then becomes, would the Minnesota Vikings be a willing trade partner? After all, why would they part with a premier pass rusher, under contract, in his prime at only 27 years of age? After all, the Pro Bowl defensive end was the youngest player in history to reach 50 career sacks.
However, Hunter has since played just seven games in the past two seasons due to injury troubles.
He had season-ending neck surgery in 2020, and in 2021, Hunter suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ending his campaign early with the Vikings in November. Combined with his exorbitant salary, these issues could lead to Hunter's exit from Minnesota.
Let's jump into the financial details that could influence Minnesota to trade away one of their best players.
In 2019, Danielle Hunter signed a five-year, $72 million extension with the Vikings, including a $15 million signing bonus, $40 million of it guaranteed, with an average annual salary of $14.4 million.
In 2022, Hunter will earn a base salary of $1.4 million a roster bonus of $18,294,110 and a workout bonus of $100,000, while carrying a cap hit of $25,914,110 and a dead cap value of $7.48 million. He has two years left on his contract with the Vikings.
Minnesota is currently $11 million over the salary cap, and the Vikings can create $14 million worth of cap space by trading Hunter before the 2022 NFL Draft. The team has a tough decision to make, extend Hunter to a new deal or trade him.
The Vikings as a franchise, with an entirely new GM, front office, and coaching staff coming on board, could be headed towards a fire sale.
And the franchise's public issues with Hunter in the past, where he has voiced his displeasure publicly about his contract and the team's direction, could lead to a change of scenery for the stud pass rusher.
After griping about being underpaid publicly last summer, the Vikings and Danielle Hunter agreed to a restructured contract, allowing Hunter to report to the team's minicamp, which he was planning on sitting out.
As is always the case with any of these types of high-profile trades, there's a substantial degree of risk involved. Barring some unforeseen medical information coming out that clouds Hunter's playing future, the Vikings will not give away one of their best assets, and they will open the door for bidding on Hunter.
Minnesota should have several suitors for him, but not every team has the draft capital or cap space to make a deal work like the Jets do.
Banking on Hunter's health will be a concern for the Jets, and keeping him healthy and happy will be challenging. Concerning the latter, Joe Douglas and New York will most likely have to extend Hunter's contract to accomplish that goal. But the reward of acquiring a player like Hunter for the Jets defense could outweigh any risks involved.
Then there's the breaking point. What will the Jets be willing to give up for Danielle Hunter? Therein lies the rub — would Douglas be willing to part with one of his premium picks in this year's draft?
The Jets have four of the top 38 picks, and it could take a combination of one of those picks or the Jets' 10th pick overall to win the Vikings over in a potential deal. That could very well be the asking price.
Sometimes, quick fixes can backfire. But the potential here is for the Jets to make a big splash, improve their defense greatly and Hunter can be a long-term fix for a long-term problem area for New York.