With mandatory minicamp coming up next week — emphasis on the word mandatory — it’s still unclear whether Minnesota Vikings’ star pass rusher Danielle Hunter will be in attendance.
The 26-year-old defensive end has been a no-show at TCO Performance Center in Eagan over the past couple of weeks while most of his teammates have participated in organized team activities. Though the workouts are voluntary, Hunter’s absence has been conspicuous with nearly 95 percent of the roster present.
Asked last week about the situation, coach Mike Zimmer said he had not heard from Hunter.
If the Vikings have gained any clarity in the past week, they are keeping that information under wraps. Asked on Thursday morning about his communication with Hunter this offseason, co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson replied, “I will keep that between me and D and that’s all I’m going to say on that.”
This situation has been more than a year in the making. Reportedly unhappy with his current contract, which pays him an average value of $14.4 million per season, Hunter missed all of last season with a neck injury. He is considered to be underpaid for his position with other pass rushers earning significantly more annually.
Likely the only way this saga will be resolved is if the Vikings ultimately agree to pay Hunter more money. If Hunter misses mandatory minicamp next week — it’s scheduled from June 15-17 — he will face a fine of up to $93,085.
After feeding rookie cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney to the wolves last season, the Vikings should have a lot more experience in the secondary this season. They signed veteran Patrick Peterson this offseason, and recently added veteran Bashaud Breeland.
That veteran presence is already making a difference.
“You’ve got guys out there who’ve played in NFL games, so they have experience,” Patterson said. “They are not going through it for the first time.”
Those new faces will also create an internal competition for spots, with other cornerbacks such as Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand also competing for playing time.
“It makes everybody strive to improve because they’re all fighting for a job,” Patterson said. “That’s going to cause everyone to see who’s getting better, and the cream is going to rise to the top.”
While the Vikings are thrilled to have middle linebacker Eric Kendricks and outside linebacker Anthony Barr back in the mix, they are holding an internal competition for the other starting linebacker spot. As of right now, Troy Dye and Cameron Smith seem to be the leaders in the clubhouse, with Nick Vigil and rookie Chazz Surratt also pushing for playing time.
“We are just going to see who’s the best player,” co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said. “We have three preseason games for evaluation. It’s the guy who’s consistent and makes the fewest mistakes but also makes plays. We want playmakers out on the field just like Eric and Anthony are.”