When the Vikings line up for minicamp this week, their 2021 defensive line could look a lot more like the one they had in 2018.
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter completed a medical check at the team's facility Monday and will be with the team for the start of its mandatory minicamp on Tuesday after he agreed to a reworked contract with the team, resolving for now the issue of the pass rusher's unhappiness with the deal he signed in 2018. The team is also working to bring defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson back to Minnesota after two years in Cleveland, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Hunter had skipped all of the team's voluntary offseason workouts. He had a $100,000 workout bonus in his deal, and could have been fined more than $93,000 had he missed this week's camp.
NFL Network, which first reported last October that Hunter's camp was unhappy with his current contract, also first reported the news of a reworked deal on Monday, citing anonymous sources.
The Vikings will reportedly convert $5.6 million of Hunter's $12.15 million base salary into a signing bonus this year, while installing an $18 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2022 league year that will effectively force the Vikings to make a decision on their pass rusher after this season. Hunter has three years left on his current deal, and sources have said this spring the Vikings were reluctant to add new money to his contract with so much time left because of the precedent it would set.
The structure created on Monday would allow them to effectively advance part of Hunter's 2021 salary while the roster bonus means they'll either give him a raise, a new contract with only two years left on his current deal, or a chance to become a free agent.
The five-year, $72 million deal Hunter signed in 2018 quickly was eclipsed by contracts given to other players around the league, to the point where he was the 17th highest-paid edge rusher in the league this offseason.
Hunter missed all of the 2020 season because of a herniated disc in his neck. He opted to have season-ending surgery in October, rather than trying to return for the second half of the season with the team sitting at 1-5 during its bye week.
Before the neck injury, which the Vikings did not acknowledge publicly until October, Hunter seemed poised for another strong season on the left side of the defensive line. He became the quickest player in NFL history to reach the 50-sack threshold in 2019, posting 14 1/2 sacks for the second consecutive season. But after he took part in the first practice of Vikings' training camp, he didn't practice again. The Vikings placed Hunter on injured reserve in September, hours before they would have to issue their first injury report of the season and disclose more specifics about the injury.
Hunter has been working out in Houston, and trainer Rischad Whitfield said he and the defensive end were careful to do drills that would keep him from excessively twisting his spine.
"He's slowly but surely working his way back into things," Whitfield said last month. "A lot of the stuff I do with Danielle is the short-area quickness, change of directions, stuff to help him get off the ball. We work on bending. He moves just fine. The dude's a freak of nature, man."