July 12, 2024

Done deal : Lions Projected to Sign Rival’s Former All-Pro DE to $67 Million Deal
Lions announce they've signed 11 players to futures/reserves deals |  Yardbarker

The Detroit Lions are expected to address the team’s weak pass defense this offseason. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon, though, predicted the Lions to do that without needing to leave the NFC North. Kenyon projected the Lions to sign Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter to a 3-year, $67 million deal.

Kenyon’s projection included $51 million guaranteed for Hunter.

“Hunter has notched 10-plus sacks in five of his eight seasons and tallied a career-best 16.5 in 2023,” Kenyon wrote. “His value, quite literally, has never been higher. While it’s bad (self-inflicted) financial timing for Minnesota, the NFC North-rival Detroit Lions are lurking with a major pass-rushing need.”

Hunter made second-team All-Pro in 2018. He’s also been a Pro Bowler in four of the past five seasons, including 2022 and 2023.

In 2023, Hunter posted a career-high 16.5 sacks and led the NFL with 23 tackles for loss. He also had 22 quarterback hits and 4 forced fumbles.

How Danielle Hunter Could Fit With the Lions

Although he will turn 32 years old before the end of a 3-year contract, Hunter makes a lot of sense for Detroit.

The Lions were first in a lot of analytic pass rushing categories last season such as pressure rate, hurry percentage and quarterback knockdown rate. However, they were tied for 23rd in sacks with 41.

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill combined to tally 16.5 of those 41 sacks. No other Lions defender had more than 3.

Landing Hunter would give the Lions a Pro Bowl level edge rusher opposite Hutchinson. Hunter’s presence should raise Hutchinson’s level of play, leading to potentially 30-35 sacks between the two rushers alone.

Hunter has reached double-digit sacks five times in his eight-year NFL career. The only time over the past five years he didn’t surpass 10 sacks was in 2021 when he played just 7 games.

Entering 2023, second-year defender James Houston was expected to be the edge rusher to complement Hutchinson. But Houston missed most of the 2023 season with a ankle injury he sustained in Week 2.

Houston could still become a significant part of Detroit’s future. But that shouldn’t stop the Lions from pursuing an already elite edge rusher such as Hunter.

Coming off a career year in sacks, tackles, tackles and tackles for loss, Hunter could transform Detroit’s defensive line into one of the elite fronts in the NFL.

Lions to Target Edge Rusher in 2024 NFL Draft?

Hunter is a great addition for the Lions on paper. The question is whether general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell will view him as a fit for the team’s culture.

Age could also be a question. Hunter will turn 30 in October and may never repeat his 2023 statistics.

Holmes made it clear in his post-season press conference that the team isn’t looking for short-term solutions even though they are Super Bowl contenders entering 2024.

“Every move that me and Dan make, it has been made to sustain what we are building,” Holmes told reporters on February 5. “Every single move, and I’ll say every single move we make and every single move we do not make is to sustain what we have been building.”

So, although signing Hunter would definitely be a splash, it’s worth wondering if the Lions would prefer to target a young edge rusher through the draft.2023 Detroit Lions Projected Finish, Key Signings and Fantasy Stars | The  Sporting Base

Early NFL mock drafts have linked the Lions to numerous edge rushers who could be available late in the first round.

On February 5, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein predicted Detroit to target Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson at No. 29 overall.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks also had the Lions targeting a pass rusher — Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson.

Additionally, The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner projected the Lions to select Ohio State edge rusher JT Tuimoloau while The Athletic’s Dan Brugler had the Lions nabbing Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat.

Detroit has also been linked to other positions in the first round, but a prospect that helps the team’s pass defense makes the most sense.

The Lions were 27th in passing yards allowed and 29th in net passing yards yielded per attempt last season.

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