Jaguars would be foolish not to pursue this top-notch pass rusher in free agency

• The Jaguars need to load up on talent in free agency. This Pro Bowl pass rusher would certainly be a great addition.

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99)
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars enter the offseason with a rather long to-do list. Among the biggest boxes they need to check off are signing outside linebacker Josh Allen and wide receiver Calvin Ridley to long-term deals. Once they get those two under contract, the Jags will need to turn to free agency to make upgrades to the rest of the roster. One player who could be of great help is Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Hunter is coming off a banner year and is set to hit the open market. What separates him from other pending free agents is that the Jaguars showed legitimate interest in him at several points last year. First, they were seen as a potential landing spot when he was in the midst of a contract impasse with the Minnesota Vikings. Later, the regular season came and the Jags were seen as a potential trade partner at the deadline.

Ultimately, the Jaguars stayed put but they've once again been discussed as a potential destination for Hunter ahead of 2024's free agency. Insider Jeremy Fowler of ESPN believes Jacksonville will be a team to watch if the former LSU Tiger doesn't re-sign with the Vikes. Similarly, Paul Allen, a prominent figure in Minnesota sports, has gone as far as to say that Hunter will be either a Viking or a Jaguar.

Alec Lewis of The Athletic is also of the opinion that Jacksonville would be a fit for Hunter if he doesn't return to the Vikings in 2024. Simply put, the consensus sees the Jaguars as a logical/legitimate landing spot for the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end. But, can they pull it off?

What do the Jacksonville Jaguars need to do sign Danielle Hunter?

Danielle Hunter, a third-round pick in 2015, is coming off a banner season but he's far from a one-year wonder. He's appeared in 119 games with 90 starts and has logged 87.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, and 134 quarterback hits throughout his illustrious career. On top of that, he earned a Second-Team All-Pro designation in 2018. The Jaguars could most definitely use a player with that kind of resume. The trouble is that there would be a few roadblocks to lock him up in free agency.

First, it's not a given that he'll leave the Vikings. If he returns, he'll be off the table. But even if he hits the open market, signing him will be a bit complicated. He got a $17.5 million deal to remain in Minnesota last year. His contract demands will probably go up this offseason. Given that Rashan Gary got a four-year deal worth $107.5 million last year, it wouldn't be shocking to see Hunter ask for an annual average of $26 million or higher.

Working in the Jags' favor is that they'll have more cap space than they expected. The league announced the salary cap for 2024 will be $255.4 million, $13 million more than the original projection. When you add that they can make a few moves to free up space, their chances of going after Hunter increase considerably.

On the other hand, there's the Josh Allen situation. Like Hunter, Allen is coming off a career year. The Jaguars have made it clear they want to keep the star pass rusher but they hadn't begun contract talks by late January, something Allen wasn't thrilled about.

If the Jags want to make a run for Hunter, they'll need to first extend Allen. After all, it would be odd to pursue a pass rusher in free agency when you already have a very good one in place. Furthermore, letting Allen walk and bringing in someone else could send the wrong message to the locker room: "Why give my best if my team isn't going to take care of me?"

All things considered, signing Danielle Hunter is doable, if complicated. The Jacksonville Jaguars could pull it off but they would need to first make a few moves to create cap space. Also, they need to re-sign Josh Allen before they make any acquisitions in free agency.

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