MINNEAPOLIS - After a busy start in NFL free agency, things have seemingly quieted down for the Minnesota Vikings.
The latest move came over the weekend, with defensive end Danielle Hunter having his contract restructured to give the Vikings more breathing room with their salary cap. Hunter started all 18 games last season and finished with 14.5 sacks, 70 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 22 quarterback hits.
Hunter became the fastest player in NFL history last season to record at least 50 sacks in his first five seasons. He’s currently at 54.5 career sacks.
He’ll be that much more important this season, with at least two departures to the Vikings’ defensive line in free agency. Linval Joseph was cut before free agency, and is headed to the L.A. Chargers. Everson Griffen is apparently leaving the Vikings after 10 seasons, posting a goodbye message on Instagram last Friday. He has yet to find a new team. Stephen Weatherly also departed in free agency.
Hunter will have at least one new teammate on the defensive line. The Vikings have brought in former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce to replace Joseph. Pierce, at 340 pounds, is now the Vikings’ largest defensive player and anchored a run defense that was No. 5 in the NFL last season. He also considers himself one of the 10 strongest players in the NFL.
Also gone from last year are defensive backs Mackensie Alexander and Tray Waynes, and safeties Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse. The Vikings placed the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris, who tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions last year. His future in Minnesota remains unknown. The current top defensive backs on the roster are Mike Hughes, and Holton Hill.
The Vikings traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for four draft picks including the No. 22 overall pick in the upcoming draft. It gives the Vikings two first-round picks.
In addition to restructuring Hunter over the weekend, the Vikings agreed to terms on a one-year deal with offensive lineman Rashod Hill. They also released Josh Kline in a surprise move last week.
One of the first moves of free agency and legal tampering the Vikings made was agreeing to terms on a contract extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins. They also extended fullback C.J. Ham, Britton Colquitt and brought back Dan Bailey to continue continuity and stability among the specialists.
We don’t know yet what will happen with running back Dalvin Cook, who is now in the final season of his rookie contract. He missed two games and two halves of two other games due to chest and shoulder injuries, yet still ran for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his brief career. It’s in the Vikings’ best interest, if they want to keep him, to get an extension done to avoid any potential offseason drama.
Stay tuned because it’s the NFL. There are still plenty of moves to make, and the draft is exactly one month away.