The Atlanta Falcons need to trade for Minnesota Vikings edge defender Danielle Hunter to really set the defense apart for 2023 and beyond. Hunter has shown that he is one of the best pass rushers in the league and is toiling away on an 0-3 team. The Falcons pass rush needs someone to help them close out on sacks. Having that truly premiere pass rusher would raise the tide for the entire defense. Hunter would instantly start over Dupree as the primary edge and allow the team to limit Lorenzo Carter's snaps to purely special teams.
The Falcons are 30th in the NFL in sacks by their defense. They have created 16 additional hits and 29 additional hurries through three games this season as well. So as a team, they're much better off than they were through three games in 2022. They are pacing one less sack than the 24 that Pro Football Focus credited them within 2022, but are pacing 91 hits vs. the 47 hits they had in 2022. The pressure numbers are also higher pacing at 164 vs. 124 a year ago. The Falcons are improved with their pressures. But the majority of it is coming from the interior defensive line.
One thing they could do to improve internally is play Arnold Ebiketie more snaps in pass-rush situations. By continually giving Zach Harrison more snaps, the Falcons aren't putting in their best personnel to get after the quarterback. Internal pass rush sets would drastically improve just by doing that. But they should couple this by adding another premiere guy to the pass rush rotation. And that guy should be Danielle Hunter.
Hunter would instantly be the Falcons' top pass rusher and would upgrade over Bud Dupree in pass-rush situations. He would also be a comparable run defender. The Falcons would also allow him to play less than 91 percent of the snaps that he's playing with the Vikings. By having Lorenzo Carter, Dupree, and Arnold Ebiketie rotate in with him, the Falcons would keep Hunter fresh and help him be even more dominant than his five sacks, seven hurries, and insanely good pressure rate shows. Trading for Hunter would be very similar to the Falcons trading for John Abraham in 2006.
Using the concept that the Falcons would have to re-negotiate his entire contract and give him a longer-term deal, the Falcons would likely try to re-sign Hunter to a four or five-year deal and have the cap make sense for both Hunter and the team. The real question is what the Falcons would have to trade for Hunter. Based on comparable trade compensation, Hunter is likely worth a 2024 second-round pick. The Vikings would also try to replace him if they could. That leads to this as the projected trade compensation:
Atlanta Falcons receive:
EDGE Danielle Hunter
Minnesota Vikings receive:
2024 3rd round pick
EDGE DeAngelo Malone
The Vikings would receive a good fit for their 3-4 defense for Brian Flores in DeAngelo Malone (the player that was picked with the selection the Falcons received for Matt Ryan), and a 2024 third-round pick. Malone stylistically is the kind of pass rusher that they would want and could develop faster for the Vikings than the Falcons based on how they would use him. Hunter's value would be roughly a 2nd round pick with this trade as well. Atlanta's cap would need a couple of restructures to open the cap space needed to bring in Hunter.
If it doesn't happen in season, the Falcons should make a run for Hunter in the offseason. He is only 29 years old at the end of this season and still has a lot of good football left in him. Atlanta would benefit greatly in the pass rush and with Bud Dupree only on a 1-year deal, the Falcons could have a massive upgrade to Dupree in Hunter. Hunter would set this defense apart so much from the pack that Atlanta could actually have a real pass rush for the first time in over a decade. The Vikings' defensive captain would be a perfect fit for this defense and really help them take it to the next level.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.