The Atlanta Falcons have done a lot to address their pass rush and overall defense this offseason. One more player, though, could be the cherry on top.
The Falcons would be wise to see if they can make Minnesota Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter that cherry.
“Sources say that teams have been calling the Minnesota Vikings regarding Danielle Hunter,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on June 7. “He has, in fact, generated some trade interest. This is something that we’ve heard rumors about, I’d say, over the last several months.”
Rapoport did not mention the Falcons or any team that has been calling the Vikings. But if Atlanta general manager Terry Fontenot hasn’t called yet, he should.
Hunter is the exact type of player the Falcons defense desperately needed before the offseason began. He has recorded at least 10 sacks in four of the past six seasons, including three of the last four.
He had just 6 sacks when he played only seven games in 2021.
In 2022, Hunter posted 10.5 sacks with 12 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hits. Behind those numbers, he made his third Pro Bowl.
Similar to the offseason free agency additions of Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, Hunter may not be a long-term solution for Atlanta’s pass rush. Hunter turns 29 in October and isn’t signed beyond the 2023 season.
However, if the Falcons are serious about not just contending in the NFC South but also the NFC, they could use another pass rusher. And trading for Hunter would make him the best edge rusher on the Atlanta roster.
The Falcons haven’t had a defender reach double-digit sacks since Vic Beasley had 15.5 sacks during his All-Pro season when the team went to the Super Bowl in 2016.
With 71 sacks in seven NFL seasons, Hunter has averaged double-digit sacks for his entire career.
Unlike other available pass rushers such as Yannick Ngakoue, Hunter is also solid against the run. The Pro Football Focus player grades ranked Hunter a top 20 run defender among edge rushers who played at least half of their team’s defensive snaps last season.
Hunter isn’t under contract past 2023, but he’s a bargain for this season. A team that acquires the 28-year-old will pick up his $4.9 million base salary and $500,000 roster bonus.
A $5.4 million cap hit is a cheap number for a player with double-digit sack potential.
There are surprisingly a lot of available veteran edge rushers right now. In addition to Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney and Frank Clark are still free agents. Chase Young could also potentially be available in a trade.
That makes getting into a bidding war for Hunter quite a bit less appealing.
But Hunter is a better option than of those other edge rushers. Without a doubt, he would be the cherry on top of an already pretty solid Falcons offseason.