Lions Expressing Interest in Rival’s $94 Million Star a ‘Smart Thing’: Analyst

Pundits have connected the Detroit Lions to pending free agent defensive end Danielle Hunter in offseason rumors. So it was not surprising that The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling said on the February 28 episode of the Access Vikings podcast that the Lions expressed interest in Hunter during the NFL combine.

Bears 2024 free agency profile: Will Chicago target Danielle Hunter?

However, his co-host, The Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer questioned whether that interest was genuine. Krammer theorized that the Lions could be showing interest in Hunter to drive the price up for the 29-year-old in the free agent market.

“How much of that is truthful? How much of that is just a division rival trying to do a smart thing of up a market of a guy they are trying to get the heck out of here?” Krammer said.

“[The Lions] would obviously want Danielle [Hunter] to either have as many suitors as possible so that he can have a high enough market that either hurts the Vikings’ salary cap situation or just gets him out of there. Which is what you’d want as a division rival.”

Krammer and Goessling said that the Chicago Bears are also showing interest in Hunter. But they implied the Bears could also be trying to raise the defensive end’s price.

According to Spotrac, Hunter has made about $94.8 million in his NFL career. The two Star Tribune insiders projected Hunter to cash in again this offseason and accept the highest contract offer.

Why the Lions Could Be Exaggerating Interest in DE Danielle Hunter

The Vikings possess $41 million in cap space according to Spotrac. But quarterback Kirk Cousins could eat up most of that available space by himself. The Vikings would also likely want to offer contract extensions to wide receiver Justin Jefferson and left tackle Christian Darrisaw over the next 18 months.

That doesn’t leave a lot of space for Hunter, who Krammer and Goessling speculated the team views as a good, but not elite, pass rusher.

The Vikings, though, will have a big hole at defensive end if they don’t re-sign Hunter. So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Minnesota makes offers to Hunter.

It becomes harder to sign him, though, if Hunter has a lot of suitors in free agency. Or, he at least appears to have a lot of suitors in free agency.

The Lions and Bears both have more cap space than the Vikings. If the Vikings offer Hunter more money to avoid losing him to a division rival, then Minnesota will have less to spend on other players.

Why the Lions Should Actually Be Interested in Hunter

It probably makes the most sense for the Bears to play a game of chicken with Hunter and the Vikings. The Lions could be playing that too, but as a 2024 Super Bowl contender, the Lions could also simply use Hunter as a pass rush addition.

Hunter posted a career-high 16.5 sacks, 83 combined tackles and 4 forced fumbles last season. He also led the NFL with 23 tackles for loss.

In his nine-year career, Hunter has recorded five 10-sack seasons, including four since 2018. Over his past 73 starts, he has registered 62 sacks, 77 tackles for loss and 95 quarterback hits.

Hunter and edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson could make up a dynamic duo with the Lions. Detroit also has Alim McNeill along the interior of its defensive line.

In 2023, Hutchinson and McNeill combined to account for 16.5 of the 41 sacks the Lions recorded during the regular season.

An improved pass rush will help Detroit’s pass defense. The Lions finished the 2023 season ranked 27th in passing yards yielded and 29th in net yards allowed per pass attempt.

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