Danielle Hunter signed a new contract with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday that makes him one of the league's highest-paid defensive ends, though they were able to get away with not breaking the bank for him and getting him under contract for just over $14 million per season. The front office deserves credit for that alone, as he easily could have netted an extra $4-5 million on the open market next offseason, but it points to a larger arc at play for the franchise.

General manager Rick Spielman has been busy the last few seasons pulling strings to try and lock down a core group of players after developing them throughout the duration of their rookie contracts. The Vikings have an ownership group in the Wilf family that is always ready to spend and wants the team to have the best of everything, as evidence by all of the big deals given out recently as well as opening two state-of-the-art facilities in the last few years in U.S. Bank Stadium and TCO Performance Center. There are franchises in the league that have drafted as well as the Vikings have but elect to let their young talent walk, a la Mike Zimmer's former employer in the Cincinnati Bengals to use one example. That is not a problem in the Twin Cities.

What the Vikings have done, and what they still seek to do with a few more players needing deals in wide receiver Stefon Diggs and linebacker Anthony Barr, is lock down a talented core of players that keeps the window this team has to contend for championships wide open. Right now, things have the look of a three-year timeframe that could be the team's best chance to win its elusive first Super Bowl.

The window was already cracked open heading into this offseason, but the initial timeframe took shape in the form of the three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million contract that quarterback Kirk Cousins inked in free agency. Arguably, the most important piece for sustained success was in place, but it goes beyond Cousins. He, and now Hunter, are a part of a core that is set to be competitive for a long time.

Cousins, Hunter, defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Eric Kendricks, wide receiver Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook are among the key players under contract through at least the 2020 campaign as of now. Without signing another player to an extension, the Vikings possess arguably one of the top groups of talent in the league. A handful of those guys still likely have another big contract coming after their current deals expire, so their presence could help prolong the contenting window.

(The roster is all but set and the Vikings now prepare for a run to the Super Bowl --Don't miss out on the action. Sign up for our FREE newsletter today!)

The 2018 is not "Super Bowl or bust" for the organization, but it is the continuation of a process that has anything less than a championship being a disappointment. That is a daunting place to be, but there are several franchises across the league that would love to find themselves in that position. There are not many teams that have done a better job of scouting, developing and retaining talent in the last few years. Being able to continue that helps offset the sting of losing a player because he prices himself out and having young, moldable depth at multiple positions keeps windows open. That is why we saw Spielman and company go with upside over results in a few spots during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Still, coming off of an NFC Championship game appearance and having an offseason that saw the team improve in more than a select few key spots should be enough to give fans the piece of mind to know the Vikings are going to be in the hunt for awhile here, barring something catastrophic happening (which they are no doubt used to seeing, as well). The NFC is as stacked as it ever has been and probably will be that way the next few years, so their work is cut out for them.

We will have to wait and see if the Vikings are able to get deals done with Diggs and Barr. One would assume at least one of those two will be back and the other spot will be filled by either the player himself or an acquisition. Spielman and his front office deserve the benefit of the doubt at this point that they have this thing mapped out.