The Cowboys were able to sign the Vikings star with 16.5 sacks after hiring Mike Zimmer
The Dallas Cowboys have named Mike Zimmer as their new defensive coordinator, and his connections could come in handy in free agency.
Of all the potential names, there may not be a more attractive option than Minnesota Vikings cornerback Daniel Hunter.
Hunter has been one of the NFL’s best pass rushers since 2016 after first joining Minnesota last year. Zimmer was the head coach when Hunter was drafted and coached him for six seasons before being fired in 2021.
Hunter went from a third-round pick with upside to his first Pro Bowl in 2018 under Zimmer. He also received a hefty second contract while Zimmer was leading the coaching staff.
In the latest development, Zimmer placed Hunter as a reserve player for his “current” NFL team. At position 33 on the team, Zimmer listed the best defenders at each position.
Hunter was selected as one of five reserve players, with Cowboys star Micah Parsons selected as the top player. Hunter reached elite status with the Vikings.
Hunter is 29 years old and in his eighth season, but he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, 2023 was his best season in Minnesota and he made four Pro Bowl appearances.
Hunter, who started 2016 with 12.5 sacks, has topped 10 sacks in five seasons. But 2023 was a significant step forward. He has 16.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an NFL-best 23 tackles, according to PFR.
The only red flag for Hunter is his injury history. Although there were not many injuries, there are two major issues in 2020 and 2021.
A neck injury sidelined him completely in 2020, and a torn pectoral muscle will keep him out for seven games in 2021.
There have been no apparent long-term problems since his monster campaign last fall. Can the Cowboy handle Hunter? There has been a lot of talk about Dallas’ salary cap recently.
As things stand, the team is projected to be $14.3 million over the cap. It doesn’t seem feasible for Spotrac to make room for Hunter, who is targeting $20 million a year.
Restructuring and launches have made it easy for Dallas to open those spaces. Hunter may also be willing to play for a contract that pays him $10-$15 million in 2023.
Dallas has a fee to pay in the coming years, but at least they can accommodate him while going all-in. Even though Hunter boasts one of the best pass rushers around, he’s the type of player every NFL team wants to have.
The former LSU Tiger can attack on both ends of the defensive line. That means he, Parsons, and DeMarcus Lawrence will get plenty of opportunities.
With Lawrence turning 32 in April, this is a perfect opportunity for a reboot without any stopgap measures.