The Minnesota Vikings had seen enough from 2018 first-round cornerback Mike Hughes.
Hughes, who battled injuries throughout his tenure, had one season remaining on his rookie contract with the Vikings, which declined to pick up his fifth-year team option this offseason.
Minnesota desired not to see Hughes’ final year through, instead opting to trade him and a 2022 seventh-round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2022 sixth-round pick while shedding $1.8 million in cap space.
Coach Mike Zimmer addressed the decision to part ways with Hughes in a press conference last weekend.
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‘He’s Been Injured an Awful Lot’
Zimmer wasn’t too beat up about moving on from Hughes, explaining during his May 15 press conference that the 24-year-old’s injury history was the biggest factor in the decision.
“Mike is a terrific kid, but he’s been injured an awful lot,” Zimmer said.
Between a torn knee ligament his rookie year and two neck injuries since, Hughes missed 36 of 50 games in his three seasons in Minnesota.
Considering the Vikings signed longtime Arizona Cardinals veteran Patrick Peterson and former Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who had a one-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020, the writing was on the wall for Hughes.
“We were fortunate to get a couple corners [Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler] last year in the draft, we signed Patrick Peterson in free agency, so I think that gave us an opportunity to make the trade,” Zimmer said. “But as far as our corner depth … honestly, you guys laugh at me, but you can never have too many good corners. They just get hurt.”
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Decision to Ditch Hughes Doesn’t Add Up
Zimmer’s final point of cornerbacks getting injured was evident last year when the team had to sign players off the street weekly to fill the roster.
However, that point contradicts the decision to ditch Hughes, the third-most veteran cornerback on the team’s roster.
Gladney is still facing legal issues after he was charged with third-degree felony assault in early April. His status remains in question and even if he avoids criminal charges, the NFL could still suspend him for violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.
Minnesota did sign former Green Bay Packers cornerback Parry Nickerson on Monday, May 17 and is also expected to sign undrafted rookie Amari Henderson. But both players are camp bodies until proven otherwise.
The decision to ditch Hughes comes with confidence in 2020 fifth-rounder Harrison Hand and 2019 seventh-rounder Kris Boyd, and Minnesota betting its cornerbacks won’t be bitten as harshly by the injury bug in 2021.
Vikings Preparing a Bounty of Cap Space
Clearing Hughes’ $1.8 million cap hit off the books was a small piece of an upcoming cap savings deadline for the Vikings.
After June 1, Minnesota will have another $7.6 million in cap space coming in from Kyle Rudolph’s release. After signing its rookie draft class, Minnesota is expected to have $13.78 million in cap space following the June 1 deadline.
There has been speculation surrounding where that money could be best utilized.
Cornerback was one of the positions under consideration, but with the newly signed Nickerson adding to an already brimming cornerbacks room heading into training camp, the Vikings could pivot towards an edge rusher in conjunction with extending Danielle Hunter, Brian O’Neill or Harrison Smith.