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Kirk Cousins is making headlines as one of the top NFL players set to hit 2024 free agency, especially as he and the Minnesota Vikings prepare for a potential split. But he's not the only big name from his team who could soon cash in elsewhere.

Lifelong Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter, a four-time Pro Bowler fresh off a career-high 16.5 sacks, is among the most accomplished defenders on track to test the open market. Injuries threatened to derail Hunter's value back in 2020-2021, when the imposing LSU product was limited to seven games over two seasons, but since then, he's only reinforced his dominant standing.

Hunter is no longer a spring chicken at 29 -- he turns 30 in late October -- but pass rushers have also tended to age gracefully as of late. And few have been more effective, either standing up or in the dirt, when healthy. He's now had at least 10.5 sacks and/or 20 quarterback hits in four of his last five seasons, making him a premium target for anyone in need of edge help.

The Vikings have reason to prioritize his return, considering how seamlessly he flourished under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores in 2023. But with fellow pass rusher D.J. Wonnum also bound for free agency, and the Cousins and Justin Jefferson contract situations looming, it's possible, if not probable, Minnesota will allow Hunter to solicit other offers before attempting a final sell.

So what's next for the big man? Here are our top logical landing spots, plus a prediction on his final contract:

Logical landing spots

Chicago just paid big bucks to 2023 trade acquisition Montez Sweat, but with Matt Eberflus still in charge, adding a second legitimate pass rusher wouldn't hurt. Few teams have more money to spend; they enter free agency with the fourth-most projected salary-cap space in the NFL. And there's a Minnesota connection here, with former Vikings COO Kevin Warren now overseeing the Bears' business operations. As for Hunter, he'd get not only a major payday to play alongside Sweat but the chance to square off with his old team at least twice a year in the NFC North.

The Buccaneers have to be strategic about spending as they look to retain Baker Mayfield in addition to Mike Evans and franchise tagged safety Antoine Winfield Jr. But if there's one thing Todd Bowles' defense is sorely lacking, it's a bona fide pass rusher. Hunter is just that, experienced enough to be a plug-and-play weapon on a playoff team focused on immediate contention. As a bonus, Tampa Bay also employs George Edwards, Hunter's original defensive coordinator in Minnesota, as outside linebackers coach.

The Lions have an up-and-comer at pass rusher in Aidan Hutchinson, but they could use a tone-setting complement on the other side, especially as they look to make the leap from storybook playoff team to legitimate title contender. Hunter, meanwhile, embodies the kind of raw physicality that coach Dan Campbell covets. Detroit has money to burn and already knows Hunter's value well from matching up with him in the NFC North. And just like with the Bears, signing here would enable Hunter to not only cash in with a pay raise but prove his worth against the Vikings throughout the year.

Los Angeles pivoted away from aging defensive investments in 2023, only to watch its younger group rally around a resurgent Matthew Stafford and restore hopes of annual contention. Now, the onus is on the front office to replenish the pass-rushing cupboard, and Hunter fits the bill as a tried-and-true veteran. New defensive coordinator Chris Shula has a background in coaching outside linebackers, and it's hard to think Hunter wouldn't be intrigued at the possibility of lining up alongside future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald on the West Coast.

The Texans already boast the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in Will Anderson Jr. So why would they be a logical destination for an expensive edge rusher? For one, Anderson counterpart Jonathan Greenard is also on track to hit the market, leaving Houston with a potentially serious void on the other side. And coach DeMeco Ryans knows all too well the value of deploying two legit quarterback-chasers from his time with the San Francisco 49ers. With the offense in good hands thanks to quarterback C.J. Stroud, the Texans could try to sell Hunter on a move to his childhood state.


The Vikings will no doubt make an effort to stay involved with Hunter, even if the veteran hits the market. But are they committed to matching any lucrative proposal he draws? Probably not, considering their potential quarterback change could trigger an even wider-spread rebuild and Wonnum is only 26, also eligible for a new deal. So in the event Hunter reaches the negotiating period without an extension from Minnesota, it feels like a relatively safe bet he'll find stronger interest elsewhere.

The Rams figure to explore longer-term options first, such as a potential trade for Carolina Panthers star Brian Burns. The Texans may prefer to reward their homegrown starter, Jonathan Greenard, before spending big at the spot. And the Buccaneers may have one too many ongoing negotiations -- namely with Mayfield -- to prioritize a splashy move for Hunter out of the gate. Between the NFC North rivals, then, the Lions offer a quicker path to contention. But compensation often talks loudest in these scenarios, and none of the logical suitors has more money to offer than the Bears.

So here's our prediction: Hunter signs a three-year, $67.5 million deal with the Chicago Bears. Windy City gets a physical sidekick for Sweat along a bolstered defensive front, while also restocking the offense through both the draft and free agency. And Hunter gets one of the best paydays of his career with a chance to stay in the Midwest and face his old squad.