Pass rush is a glaring weakness for the LA Rams, so the team should be all in on a trade for Minnesota Vikings' defensive end Danielle Hunter. The 28-year-old is giving mandatory minicamp a miss amid a contract dispute, increasing the likelihood he could be dealt.
If a deal is a possibility, the Rams' general manager Les Snead could acquire Hunter for a second-round pick, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. Although, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus thinks packaging a pair of third-round choices together would get a deal done.
Either price is worth paying for a team that logged a mere 38 sacks last season and put sack leader Floyd on the market where he was scooped up by the Buffalo Bills. Better still, the Rams now have the space under the salary cap to make a deal for Hunter work.
Vikings' Pro-Bowler perfect for Rams
The Rams need Hunter because he's the right side of 30 and has already shown the ability to put his hand down along a four-man front and stand up on the edges of a 3-4. Rams' defensive coordinator Raheem Morris mixes both fronts, but he needs a dominant edge-rusher to take the heat off of perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Hunter returned to the Pro Bowl in 2022, despite the Vikings switching him to outside linebacker. Aligning in a two-point stance gave him greater flexibility and takeoff speed to attack the pocket, but Hunter was still most effective whenever he put his hand on the ground and rushed.
That familiar alignment yielded most of Hunter's 10.5 sacks, including these takedowns of Washington Commanders' quarterback Taylor Heinicke, highlighted by Nick Olson of Viking Territory.
The Rams don't have a game-wrecker as productive as Hunter on the outside after Snead parted ways with Floyd and last season's nine sacks. Having Hunter collapse the corner while Donald commands his usual crowds inside could make the Rams' pass rush prolific.
Playing a key role for Morris' unit would also make Hunter feel valuable, a vibe he isn't getting from the Vikings. The veteran is holding out because he wants the Vikes to improve the modest terms he's currently paid, according to NFL Networks Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Rapoport's note about Hunter being in line to earn $5.5 million for 2023 should pique the interest of Snead. He's spent most of the offseason dumping or dealing big-ticket names like Floyd, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Jalen Ramsey to cut costs.
Snead's efforts have borne fruit and continued recently when he reworked the contract of Rams' wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The move generated over $10 million in cap space, per ESPN's Field Yates.
Kupp's reshaped signing bonus leaves the Rams with $13,777,354 worth of room, according to Spotrac.com. That's more than enough for a late splash in the market.
Splash moves are supposed to be a thing of the past for these more cash-conscious Rams, but Hunter needn't be a one-and-done deal to help beat a closing Super Bowl window. Instead, he's a pass-rusher still with his peak years ahead of him who would be a cornerstone of a revamped roster.
Fortifying a defense stripped of many of its biggest names this offseason can help the Rams quickly return to prominence in the NFC West.