One of the biggest remaining storylines in the Vikings' offseason is Danielle Hunter's absence from team activities and a potential holdout stemming from dissatisfaction with his contract.
This week, Anthony Barr — who has been teammates with Hunter in Minnesota's front seven for the past six years — commented on the situation.
"I’ve spoken to him a few times this offseason," Barr said. "He’s going about things the way he thinks he needs to and I support him 100 percent. He’s a friend and obviously an incredible player, and we’d love to have him whenever he does decide it’s time to show up and get back to work. I know he’s grinding and working and feeling great. We’ll accept him with open arms when he comes back."
Barr has experienced the business side of the NFL multiple times in recent years. He nearly signed a big contract with the Jets in 2019 before choosing to return to Minnesota for less money. This year, he agreed to a renegotiated deal and a pay cut in order to play one more season with the Vikings and become a free agent in 2022.
So he knows what it's like.
Hunter signed a five-year, $72 million extension prior to the 2018 season, a deal that has become a massive bargain for the Vikings as they've seen the LSU product become one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league. What complicates things is that Hunter missed all of last season with a neck injury and is still under contract for three more years.
Barr is also coming back from an injury, having suffered a season-ending pectoral tear against the Colts in Week 2. He could've wound up heading elsewhere this offseason, but said he agreed to the pay cut because he wanted to end his time in Minnesota on a better note.
“It was a number of reasons," Barr said. "I think the most important one, though, I kind of didn't want to go out like that – I didn’t want my last game being the one in which I got hurt and then missing an entire year. I didn't want that to be my last memory as a Minnesota Viking, so that played a big factor in returning and taking the pay-cut to be back with this organization."
"It would be a pretty sour note to end on, and with all the great memories that I have, I think that one would be the most lasting. So I tried to put that in the back seat and move forward and look forward to a healthier and productive season."
The Vikings are hoping that Hunter's situation will be resolved soon enough and they'll have him and Barr back to play with Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Eric Kendricks in the front seven. Add in a secondary that features Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Xavier Woods, and Mackensie Alexander, and you've got a veteran-heavy defense ready to bounce back in a big way in 2021.
But the Hunter situation is going to remain a major topic of conversation until it gets figured out, one way or another. The Vikings are thin on proven pass rushers, so they need to find a way to make the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks happy and ready to get back on the field.
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