Some have wondered aloud whether Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter‘s extended absence from practice represents, at its core, an effort by Hunter to get more money from the team. If there’s anything to it, the team’s stunning decision to trade for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue definitely won’t resolve those concerns.
Ngakoue will make $17.88 million this year, if he signs his franchise tender and the trade that will send him to Minnesota goes through. Hunter, who had $8 million in salary converted to a restructuring bonus earlier this year, will make another $3.4 million in salary. That’s a total 2020 payout to $11.4 million; more than $6 million less than Ngakoue and nearly $16 million less than the new-money average paid out by the Chargers to defensive end Joey Bosa.
In all, Hunter’s deal averages $14.4 million per year. He’s signed through 2024.
The other possibility is that the “tweak” (as described by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer) is actually something more than that, and that Ngakoue could become not a complement but a replacement for Hunter this season. However, Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports that Hunter will be back on the field “soon.”
There’s also, in theory, a chance that the Vikings have acquired Ngakoue as a precursor to trading Hunter. That would trigger a cap charge of $5 million in 2020, with another $12 million in 2021. Given that the cap is expected to drop next year, that’s a significant chunk of dead money to absorb at a time when the cost of making Ngakoue anything other than a one-year rental would jump to $21.34 million.
However it plays out, the arrival of Ngakoue creates real questions about the short- and long-term future of the Vikings’ pass rush. It could be very difficult for the Vikings to keep Ngakoue beyond 2020, and it could be even more difficult to make Hunter happy.
UPDATE 9:15 a.m. ET: Given the surprising news that Ngakoue actually has taken a pay cut to get out of Jacksonville, the Vikings may be able to navigate Hunter’s situation a little better — at least for now. If Ngakoue will be receiving $13.5 million, that’s nearly a million less than Hunter’s annual average of $14.4 million.