In typical Vikings fashion, the front office extended the contract of a homegrown talent without overly affecting this year’s salary cap.
Danielle Hunter’s mega five-year extension worth $72 million officially kicks in 2019, following the final year of his rookie deal this fall. He immediately pockets a $15 million signing bonus, which is what drops the team’s remaining cap number for this season by a prorated amount of $3,156,806, according to a summary of the contract obtained by the Star Tribune.
The Vikings have $14,061,115 remaining in cap space after Hunter’s new deal was factored into public NFLPA records.
That number is expected to drop to around $12.5 million after the team eventually gets first-round rookie Mike Hughes under contract before training camp this month.
General manager Rick Spielman and cap manager Rob Brzezinski have wiggle room to get two remaining cornerstones — receiver Stefon Diggs and linebacker Anthony Barr — on long-term deals before they each enter their contract seasons. The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling broke down just how that’s possible in this analysis.
Here’s how Hunter’s deal — making him the second-highest paid Vikings defender behind cornerback Xavier Rhodes — breaks down per season by cap hit and cash in his pocket:
2018: $5.063 million cap hit / $16.907 million in cash
2019: $13 million cap hit / $10 million in cash
2020: $14 million cap hit / $11 million in cash
2021: $15 million cap hit / $12 million in cash
2022: $15 million cap hit / $12 million in cash
2023: $12 million cap hit / $12 million in cash
Of course, NFL deals aren’t the fully guaranteed ones you’re seeing tossed around in NBA free agency this time of year. Hunter has $40 million in guarantees. That should include the $37.9 million he’s expected to earn during the first three years of the contract. After the guarantees dry up, like most NFL contracts, the team holds the power.
Starting in 2019, Hunter also has $500,000 per season tied up in per-game roster bonuses. He has an additional $100,000 per year in workout bonuses each season.
Hunter also has incentives, which are unknown at this point, that trigger salary escalators worth up to $6 million across the five seasons added to his contract.
Hunter’s deal slots him just behind Vikings team captain Everson Griffen as the fifth-highest paid 4-3 defensive end among players on long-term deals. A base value of $72 million over five years gives him a $14.4 million average, just behind Griffen’s $14.5 million average he was given on a four-year extension last summer.
Hunter, who turns 24 in October, has quickly emerged as one of the league’s most promising pass-rushing talents. He has 26.5 sacks in three NFL seasons since the Vikings drafted him in the third round out of LSU. Now he’s locked into a deal with Minnesota through 2023.