The Vikings declined to pick up the fifth-year option on cornerback Mike Hughes’ contract Monday as the deadline passed for teams to exercise the final-year option on first-round picks from 2018. Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV and SKOR North reported the Vikings’ plans Sunday on his Scoop podcast.
Hughes would have been owed $12.643 million in 2022, if the Vikings had decided to pick up the option. Hughes’ issue hasn’t been his play, but rather his availability.
Hughes has appeared in 24 of a potential 48 regular-season games since being taken 30th overall, two picks before Baltimore selected quarterback Lamar Jackson. Hughes’ rookie season, in which he returned an interception for a touchdown in a season-opening victory over San Francisco, ended in Week 6 against Arizona when he suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.
Hughes returned in Week 3 of the 2020 season and played in 14 games (three starts), but suffered a broken vertebra in his neck late in the regular season and missed the playoffs. Hughes only played in four games (two starts) last season before neck issues again brought his season to an end.
Hughes, who has averaged 7.3 yards on 16 career punt returns and 26.8 yards on four kickoff returns, has 80 tackles, two interceptions, 13 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his three seasons.
The Vikings, of course, could attempt to sign Hughes to a new contract if he plays well and stays healthy this season.
The Vikings are looking to add more cornerback depth after not addressing the position in the draft. It’s likely they will open the season with veteran Patrick Peterson, signed as a free agent, and Cameron Dantzler starting as the outside corners and Mackensie Alexander, who returned in free agency, playing in the nickel. Jeff Gladney, the Vikings’ second pick in the first round in 2020, was charged with assault in April and it’s not clear how that situation will play out both with the NFL and the legal system.
The Vikings also have cornerbacks Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand and Dylan Mabin on the roster.