The Mike Hughes Era with the Minnesota Vikings ended with a whimper last week when general manager Rick Spielman dealt the 24-year-old to the Kansas City Chiefs [and a 2022 7th-Rounder] for a 6th-Round pick in next year’s draft.
Hughes missed 50% of all football games as a member of the Vikings.
All told, he started just seven games, manufacturing a sense of disappointment in terms of value-based draft analyses. Hughes was selected in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft as a clear replacement for men like Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes who depart the team two years later.
In his first game with the Vikings, Hughes ripped off a pass from San Francisco 49ers signal-caller, Jimmy Garoppolo, and returned it for a touchdown. A star was born.
But the twinkle faded not long after. The Central Florida alumnus tore his ACL a few weeks later, and that was the start of a trend from an injury perspective.
His lack of development is what caused Spielman to spend high draft capital in 2020 on Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler. Now, one or both of those men will be called upon to start, filling the hole that Hughes was supposed to not long ago.
Hughes was shipped off to the Chiefs as the culmination of Hughes’ purple and gold career, and Peter King of NBC Sports likes the deal — for Kansas City. He wrote on the transaction:
“I think I really like the low-cost deal Kansas City GM Brett Veach made for injury-plagued Minnesota cornerback Mike Hughes. The Vikings traded Hughes plus their seventh-round pick in 2022 to KC for a sixth-round pick in 2022. Hughes was the 30th pick overall in 2018, the third cornerback selected. Look at the trade this way, using 2021 draft numbers. The Vikings moved up from the 242nd overall pick (in 2021 draft numbers) to 215th overall. GMs will tell you that, when you get to this point of the draft, the pick you’d have made at 215 will still be available at 242 maybe half the time. So the Chiefs take a one-year flyer on Hughes, and if he’s good, he becomes part of their corner rotation and maybe finds a home. There is no downside. Nice deal for KC.”
While the utopian scenario that King describes is understandable, his forecast is laced with optimism from a Chiefs perspective. Hughes has age on his side — he turned 24 in February — so if his neck magically mends and the ACL is fine and dandy, well, boom for the Chiefs. But that is a lot of what-ifs.
Too, the Vikings likely didn’t scour the wire, maintaining that a Hughes trade was at the top of their to-do list. A more sensible theory is that Spielman was on the cusp of releasing the cornerback — and shuffling him off to Missouri was a last-ditch effort at reclaiming something — anything — for his former 1st-Rounder.
Some whispers suggest that Hughes would not have passed a physical with the Vikings. His game-ready shape was not something that the Vikings management was going to trust. What’s more, his barter to Kansas City frees up a little bit of cap space. Minnesota will have about $15 million to spend on free agents after June 1st.
Maybe they’ll even sign a cornerback who doesn’t miss 50% of games. They’re out there.