This past week(end) the Vikings, who reportedly (or assumedly) were targeting Ohio State offensive lineman Billy Price in the first round of the draft, ended up drafting another corner in the first round in Mike Hughes. That pick made the Vikings online realm go basically insane, as people debated (that’s the nice way to put it) exactly what the Vikings would be using Hughes for. With two former first-round picks in Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes (Who had his fifth-year option picked up by the Vikings this week, as well) on the outside, a second-round pick in Mackenzie Alexander in the slot and wily veteran (emphasis on veteran) Terrance Newman filling in at both the outside and slot positions, the Vikings were seemingly set at the corner before the draft (at least in terms of adding someone that early in the draft), but could’ve used some depth. So while it was thought that the Vikings/head coach Mike Zimmer would end up picking up another corner in this year’s draft for that depth (and just to placate him), a first-round pick typically isn’t used just for depth, hence the cray cray responses from Vikings fans… Everywhere. Will Hughes (and Newman) be used (more) on the outside? The inside in lieu of Alexander? To return kicks/punts? At this point, we don’t really know how the Vikings plan to use Hughes this season. However, we do know that the aforementioned Newman actually resigned with the team yesterday, meaning that he’ll be around for yet another season, playing like someone half his age next to people half his age.
The Vikings sent out a press release regarding Newman’s extension, which said:
Newman returns for his fourth season with the club and his 16th NFL season overall. The 39-year-old veteran has the most career interceptions (42) among active NFL players and is the oldest active defensive player in the league. He has appeared in 47 games while making 33 starts with the Vikings and notched his 200th career start this past season. He totaled 25 tackles, one interception and five pass deflections in 2017. The Salina, Kansas native previously played for Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in Dallas from 2003-06 and in Cincinnati from 2012-13.
Amazingly, I actually was able to sit in on a media conference call with Newman this afternoon and he did mention that this year will most likely be his last and that he has to find “other things to do at [his] age”, although he said he wasn’t sure what that was (I attempted to ask if he felt like coaching was the logical step but was interrupted and then we ran out of time… Sigh, I’m good at this), and that wasn’t for lack of preperation but rather because he said he was almost singularly focused on winning a Super Bowl before he hangs up his cleats. It’s hard to imagine that Newman won’t end up coaching under Zimmer, though, as he’s invaluable in terms of teaching the young corners Zimmer’s system, especially considering the youth (and talent) at the position (something he mentioned on the conference call). Zimmer and Newman worked together in Dallas back when Bill Clinton was in office and because of that Newman is basically the best representative of Zimmer’s system outside of Zimmer himself. Beyond that, he actually still gets a ton of playing time and was getting a lot of starts over Trae Waynes, as well, as recently as the beginning of last season. That means that his value isn’t just that of a teacher but rather a mentor that can show the younger guys what to do and what not to do on the field, by actually being on the field. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if after he immediately ended up with a job as a defensive back coach for the Vikings next season, he’s that good and that knowledgeable (Again, he didn’t mention coaching as a possibility in terms of his post-playing career, but to be fair he didn’t mention anything as he said he had “no idea” what was coming next).
In the meantime, though, it’s really, REALLY great that he is going to stick around for another year, something that he said was never up in the air as he said he did announce that he was going to play after the season ended. His presence will provide even more depth to the cornerback position and that will allow rookie Mike Hughes to ease into his role a lot more easily than he otherwise would have. So, this is just awesome news (although it does make me wish that Joe Berger would’ve stuck around for another season), but with Newman retiring after the season, per his comments this afternoon, hopefully the Vikings can take full advantage of this final year with him (at least on the field) and deliver a Super Bowl to him and the state of Minnesota. He did mention that his only goal was to look forward (he did NOT want to discuss the Eagles game) and to win that Super Bowl and I, for one, believe that with Newman’s help on this increasingly stacked defense, they’ve got the best shot they’ve had in my lifetime to do just that.