Hunter’s extension shows importance Vikings place on pass-rushers

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Danielle Hunter was considered a raw prospect when he entered his name into the 2015 NFL draft after registering 4.5 sacks during the latter two seasons of his three-year career at LSU. His ceiling and upside appeared limitless, backed by his athleticism and motor, but how far he’d take his talents depended on the fit of the system he landed in and the coaching staff responsible for molding him.

The summer ahead of Hunter’s rookie season, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer invited 12-year NFL veteran Greg Ellis to take in a practice at training camp. Zimmer was curious to hear what Ellis, a defensive end who played for him in Dallas, thought of this new crop of young talent — particularly Hunter, the team’s third-round pick. At the nudging of Minnesota linebackers coach Andre Patterson, Ellis gave his honest opinion.nike cheap nfl jerseys

“He said, ‘This guy’s DeMarcus Ware,'” Zimmer recalled.18

Comparing Hunter to a nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion seemed crazy, Zimmer thought, but the foreshadowing of the heights Hunter could reach left little in doubt.

How quickly success came Hunter’s way, though, was something very few predicted.

On Wednesday, Minnesota awarded Hunter a five-year contract extension worth $72 million, with $40 million in guarantees. It comes just more than a month before training camp starts ahead of his fourth season. The move reflects the Vikings’ aim to keep their core defensive pieces together and emphasizes the importance the franchise places on its pass-rushers.

Hunter is set to earn an average salary of $14.4 million per year after recording 25.5 sacks in his first three seasons. That’s just shy of the yearly earnings of fellow defensive end Everson Griffen, who inked a four-year, $58 million extension with the Vikings last offseason, when he still had two years left on his existing deal.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“These guys are really hard to find,” Zimmer said. “They’re hard, and most of the time you have to get them very high in the draft. Coach Patterson and Coach [George] Edwards have done a great job in developing the guys that we have. That’s kind of been one of our traits: Get these guys, and then develop them into better players. To have two dynamic rushers on the edge helps us inside with Linval [Joseph] and Sheldon [Richardson] hopefully, and hopefully those four guys, we get the rest of them going, we should continue to be good for a little while.”