MARCH 20: This visit is expected to lead to an agreement, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Falcons have bolstered their defense on all three levels this offseason. Hughes and Bates are joining the secondary, while Kaden Elliss is coming over at linebacker. Fellow ex-Saint David Onyemata will also follow new DC Ryan Nielsen from New Orleans. Hughes plans to sign a two-year contract with the Falcons, Fowler tweets.
MARCH 17: Mike Hughes may have a few potential destinations for 2023, though the former first-round pick is likely to play for a fourth team in four seasons. The Falcons are on the radar to be that team, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reporting (via Twitter) they will host Hughes this weekend.
Although Hughes is taking a visit after a number of cornerbacks have reached agreements, he is not only on the Falcons’ radar. Other teams are interested, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets, adding that Wilson’s Atlanta visit will begin Friday.
Jerry Gray‘s presence on Atlanta’s staff could lead Hughes to Georgia. The veteran secondary coach was on Mike Zimmer‘s staff for six seasons; this span included Hughes’ first two NFL slates. Gray spent the past three seasons in Green Bay but joined Arthur Smith‘s assistant cadre this offseason.
Going into his age-26 season, Hughes has both bounced around in recent years and played regular roles while doing so. The Vikings traded the former No. 30 overall pick to the Chiefs in 2021. Following a bounce-back season in Kansas City, Hughes caught on with the Lions via a one-year, $2.25MM deal.
Hughes has experience both outside and in the slot, playing the latter role well with the Chiefs. Pro Football Focus rated Hughes as a top-30 corner during his Chiefs one-off. Last season did not go as well; Hughes allowed a 73.2% completion rate, was charged with giving up four touchdowns and permitting 9.2 yards per target. Those numbers resembled his 2020 season in Minnesota, which led the Vikings to bail on him in a late-round pick-swap trade.
The Falcons lost five-year contributor Isaiah Oliver to the 49ers, and 2022 pickup Casey Hayward is both coming off an injury-shortened season and heading into an age-34 campaign. He should not be considered a lock to be back. The team was linked to big-name corners ahead of free agency but decided to allocate resources elsewhere — most notably Jessie Bates‘ four-year, $64MM deal — thus far.
Even if Hughes ends up elsewhere, the Falcons will need to make at least one notable addition their AJ Terrell-fronted position group. Atlanta ranked 25th against the pass last season. Marcus Peters, Shaquill Griffin, Rock Ya-Sin, Anthony Brown and Bryce Callahan are some of the other notable corners still available.