Vikings OTAs have come and gone and star defensive end Danielle Hunter was nowhere to be found for the entire three-week, ten-practice period. The 26-year-old remains unhappy with his contract situation, and understandably so, but it's a tricky situation for Minnesota given that he missed all of the 2020 season with a neck injury and still has three years left on the deal he signed in 2018.
While Hunter not showing up was certainly notable — cornerback Jeff Gladney, who is involved in a serious ongoing legal investigation, was the only other player on the 90-man roster to be absent the whole time — it was also technically within the rules. OTAs are considered voluntary, even if that's not how coaching staffs tend to perceive them.
Things will start to get very interesting next week if Hunter continues to not report to TCO Performance Center. The Vikings have a three-day mandatory minicamp from Tuesday the 15th to Thursday the 17th, and Hunter could be fined roughly $93K ($15,515 fine for the first day, $31,030 for the second, and $46,540 for the third) if he misses all three days.
In the grand scheme of things for a player like Hunter, who has a cap hit of nearly $18 million this year, that's not a significant amount of money (although he also sacrificed a $100,000 workout bonus by missing OTAs). Regardless, it would be a further indication that he's digging in his heels about receiving a contract extension with a raise — or potentially seeking out a trade if the Vikings refuse. If he continues holding out into training camp, he'll be fined $50,000 per day, based on the current CBA.
When asked about Hunter on Thursday, Vikings defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson declined to comment. "I will keep that between me and D," Patterson said. "And that’s all I’m going to say on that."
KSTP insider Darren Wolfson reported this week that he's heard from a source who doesn't expect Hunter to attend minicamp, but he made a point to add that it's a fluid situation that could change at any time. Wolfson also said that it's his personal belief, based on the track record of this Vikings regime when it comes to taking care of their players, that Hunter will get a raise before the season.
The challenge for the two sides — Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski in the Vikings' front office, and Hunter's representation — is to figure out a deal that works for both sides, if the Vikings are even interested in such a thing. It's a fascinating situation for so many reasons, with both sides having a certain amount of leverage. Hunter is critical to the Vikings' success in 2021 and is undoubtedly underpaid based on his production in 2018 and 2019, but he also chose to sign the five-year extension. The Vikings paying him now would be a risk based on his injury situation and would also set a precedent they may want to avoid.
Perhaps there's a creative way to appease both parties, but that obviously hasn't been discovered yet. So we'll wait and see if Hunter shows up on Tuesday or continues to stay away, and we'll see how things develop from there.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.