Mike Hughes’ prospects with the Minnesota Vikings haven’t looked great in 2021.
It’s been reported the Vikings won’t pick up Hughes’ fifth-year option of his contract, making 2021 his last chance to prove his worth with the team after an injury-riddled career.
However, after Minnesota brought back 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander on a one-year deal on Monday, Hughes could be the odd-man-out in a cornerbacks room.
Before Alexander’s signing, SKOR North’s Judd Zulgad and Phil Mackey reported that a member of KFAN’s broadcasting crew said Hughes’ status is “in question.”
“A prominent Vikings talking head on KFXN FM radio may have floated that Mike Hughes’ status is in question for this upcoming year,” Mackey said.
The report was second-hand, however, Zulgad did speculate that Hughes’ status in question is most likely related to his physical health after suffering back-to-back season-ending neck injuries in 2019 and 2020.
Alexander’s arrival spells even more doubts surrounding Hughes, who the group entertained could be cut before Week 1 this season.
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Hughes’ Injury History
Hughes was selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and was poised to become the team’s next lockdown corner after Xavier Rhodes.
Hughes suffered a knee injury his rookie year but showed flashes of playmaking ability, returning an interception for a touchdown in 2019 as the team’s fourth cornerback. Hughes’ first neck injury in 2019 knocked him out of the final two games of the regular season and the playoffs.
He was tapped to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback when Rhodes, Alexander and Trae Waynes all signed with new teams in 2020 free agency. He landed on the injured reserve list with a second neck injury in 2020, which left Zulgad skeptical of his health.
“This is not something you can mess with,” Zulgad said. “I’ve said all along since the second one, I’ve got some doubts because neck problems are the kind of thing that can end one’s career — which is sad and too bad — but you can’t play through it. You can’t tough out a neck problem.”
Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson said he has been told Hughes is “fully healthy,” however, it’s unclear who his source is.
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Hughes Remains a Cheap Option for Vikings in 2021
While the frustration surrounding Hughes’ injuries could warrant a reactionary cut of the No. 30 overall pick in 2018, Hughes, at the very least, is a depth option with an affordable cap hit this season.
Hughes commands a $1.83 million cap hit and, if cut, would free up $1.18 million in cap space before June 1.
He likely starts training camp in the mix behind presumed starters Cameron Dantzler and newly acquired corners Patrick Peterson and Alexander. Jeff Gladney is also ahead of Hughes in the pecking order at slot cornerback.
But the 2020 season was a glowing example of the need for cornerback depth after nine different cornerbacks played throughout the season in response to several injuries.
Minnesota’s decision to not pick up Hughes’ fifth-year option is more an indication the team is not willing to pay him a $12.64 million base salary that Hughes would be due under his fifth-year option.
Hughes has an opportunity to prove his worth in 2021 and warrant another contract in the future.
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