Mike Hughes

North Notes: Vikings, Dunlap, Jackson

One of the final pieces to the Vikings‘ extensive extension puzzle, Stefon Diggs does not want to leave the Twin Cities anytime soon. Although the emerging wide receiver could be in line for WR1 money on the open market next year, Diggs would prefer his second contract come from the Vikings — as so many of his peers’ have in recent years.

I want to be here. I love being here,” Diggs said, (Twitter link, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). “I love being a part of the organization. They took a chance on me early on so I love it here as far as where we’re at. … Hopefully, we can get some things done and we’ll see how it goes.”

The Vikings have discussed an extension with Diggs’ camp, but nothing appears to be imminent, per Tomasson. Diggs and Anthony Barr represent the final two steps in Minnesota’s years-long effort to fortify a core, one that stands to be in its primes throughout Kirk Cousins‘ contract. If Diggs were to hit free agency, though, he would almost certainly be a coveted commodity. While Odell Beckham Jr. could theoretically be a 2019 free agent, that seems unlikely. Diggs could be the top wideout on a market that as of now would include Devin Funchess, Randall Cobb and Kelvin Benjamin.

Here’s the latest from the North.

  • Carlos Dunlap and the Bengals may be approaching the finish line on what would be a third Cincinnati contract for the veteran defensive end. Drew Rosenhaus spent time in Cincinnati this weekend, and Dunlap said (via Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer), “When you see him out here you know he is doing something. He’s out here for a reason.” Dunlap and the Bengals have made progress on a deal this offseason, but the 29-year-old pass rusher remains tied to his second contract. That deal expires after this season. Dunlap wants to play the rest of his NFL days in Cincinnati. “I would love to get it done. I would love to finish my career here as a Bengal,” he said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com.
  • Lamar Jackson‘s slender frame emerged as a pre-draft topic, but the Ravens rookie not planning a significant weight-gain project as he readies for the NFL. Jackson said (via Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com) he’s at 216 pounds and doesn’t want to be above 220, in order to maintain his elite speed.
  • First-round pick Mike Hughes will work as the Vikings‘ kick returner, while veteran Marcus Sherels will start off as the punt returner, Tomasson tweets. Though there will be competition, this would be the team’s preferred arrangement. Re-signed this offseason, Sherels has been Minnesota’s punt-return man for seven years. Hughes only worked as a return man in one season, last year at Central Florida, but he totaled three return touchdowns in that time.
  • As expected, Mychal Kendricks saw his first Browns action as a weak-side linebacker, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes. Recovering from offseason ankle surgery, the former Eagles ‘backer is participating on a limited basis for now. Ulrich suggests Kendricks may be a super-sub, working at all three Browns linebacker spots while Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins and Joe Schobert retain their first-string roles.

Vikings To Sign Mike Hughes

The Vikings have reached agreement on a deal with top pick Mike Hughes, a source tells NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Hughes will now look to build on a productive spring and compete for nickel and punt return duties when he reports to the team on Tuesday. 

Hughes, the No. 30 overall pick in this year’s draft, was one of several late first rounders to be held up in talks this year. The contract of Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny was to blame as the No 27 overall pick took less in fourth year guarantees than last year’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. After that happened, the Vikings and other clubs near the back of the order had a bit of extra leverage. After some delay, the two sides reached a compromise on Thursday.

Hughes will fight for playing time behind incumbent corners Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes this year. He also figures to see time as a kick returner given his special teams success at UCF.

With Hughes’ deal in the books, there are only 12 unsigned draft picks left in the NFL. For a complete look at the status of all 256 draft picks, check out PFR’s tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Unsigned First-Round Picks

Only six percent of 2018 NFL draft picks remain unsigned, and 71% (12-of-17) of those contract-less selections are first-rounders. For a certain slice of those unsigned first-round picks, especially those selected near the back end of Day 1, Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny‘s contract is playing a role in negotiations, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains.

While the three players selected at pick Nos. 23-25 (Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst) each garnered significant fourth season base salary guarantees, Penny — who was chosen with the 27th overall pick — actually saw his fourth season salary guarantee percentage decrease when compared to 2017’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, per Florio.

The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement implemented slotted rookie contracts which make negotiations a breeze, but there’s a still a bit of wiggle room. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round won’t often get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Penny’s representatives, clearly, didn’t do so, which could now lead other teams with unsigned first-round picks to withhold guarantees.

Here are the unsigned first-round picks chosen after No. 20 overall:

Overall, the amount of fourth season guarantees shouldn’t stand in the way of getting deals for the above players done, as the dollar amounts in question are in the thousands, not millions. But the lack of signed contracts does speak to the small area of available negotiation still left in rookie pacts, and is something to watch as the offseason progresses.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Notes: Robison, Hughes, Carlson

Last month, it was announced that Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was taking a pay cut to stay with the team in the final year of his contract. The longtime Viking was scheduled to make $3.5MM initially, but his pay cut reduced his base salary to $1.015MM plus a $90K workout bonus.

Now Robison, who has been with the Vikings since being drafted by the team in the fourth round back in 2007, appears ready to hang up his cleats. He recently told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’ll “more than likely” retire after the 2018 season.

If the 2018 season is indeed Robison’s last in the NFL, it will be the end to an unusually long run with a single team for a role player. Normally only a star player would wind up playing for the same team for 12 seasons, but Robison has carved out a similar situational pass-rushing role with the Vikings year after year through multiple coaching staffs and front offices. He has 60 sacks, 19 passes defended, and 13 forced fumbles throughout his career, only missing three of a possible 176 games since entering the league.

Here’s more on the Vikings:

  • Vikings first-round cornerback Mike Hughes is “pretty close” to signing his rookie deal, Hughes told Tomasson. Hughes, the only Vikings draft pick yet to sign, was taken with the 30th overall pick in April’s draft out of Central Florida.
  • Tomasson reports that rookie kicker Daniel Carlson “has looked better than Kai Forbath in the battle to be Minnesota’s kicker.” Since the Vikings used a fifth-rounder on Carlson, they likely have every intention of having him be their kicker. Forbath, the incumbent, was underwhelming last year and appears likely to be cut.
  • Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph is working his way back from offseason ankle surgery, and recently returned to the field. Tomasson notes that Rudolph is ahead of schedule in his recovery and wasn’t supposed to get back to work for a few more weeks.

NFL Draft Rumors: Fitzpatrick, Jackson

Is the stock of Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick slipping? That’s the sense Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets. Mortensen, personally, feels that Fitzpatrick is one of the three or four best overall talents in this year’s draft and one “proven evaluator not picking in the top 10” tells Mort that Fitzpatrick, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, and Saquon Barkley made up this year’s top four.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Several NFL sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that they really like Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Raanan expects there to be five QBs off the board in the top 20. Jackson is one of the more fascinating players in this year’s draft as some evaluators have written him off as an NFL QB, despite his tremendous athleticism.
  • On Friday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reported that LSU stars Arden Key and Derrius Guice could slip in the draft due to off-field concerns. Within the same piece, Pelissero touches on UCF cornerback Mike Hughes and Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Hughes left the UNC football program two years ago when he was accused of sexual assault, but he maintains his innocence and teams believe his version of events, Pelissero hears. Callaway, meanwhile, has a host of red flags that figure to tank his stock. Callaway was cleared of a sexual assault allegation, but he argued in his Title IX hearing that he was too “stoned” to have intercourse, which is troubling considering a past citation for marijuana. He was also charged with two third-degree felonies for his role in a credit card scam. Callaway might be one of the the most talented WRs in this year’s class, but he could fall late in the draft due to all of his issues. It also doesn’t help that Callaway didn’t impress at his pro day.

Draft Notes: Nelson, Evans, Patriots

The 2018 draft class is considered to be one of the deepest in recent memory with respect to quarterback talent, and the quarterbacks are understandably dominating draft-related stories. But there are plenty of other collegiate players with the potential to dominate at the next level, so let’s round up a few non-QB draft notes:

  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com believes there is a “decent” chance that the Giants trade down from their No. 2 overall selection, and if they do, he believes Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson would be the target. Nelson is widely-regarded as the safest bet in the draft.
  • Because there is so much QB talent in the draft, as many as six signal-callers could be taken before New England’s No. 23 overall pick rolls around. As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes, that could allow the Patriots to land the type of player it rarely gets the chance to select, as they are typically picking at the end of the first round. Reiss suggests that Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans could be the team’s target, as he would provide much-needed speed at the LB position.
  • Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne, an excellent run-stuffer who has the skills to become a quality pass-rusher as well, will meet with the Bengals tomorrow, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union thinks the Jaguars need another TE who can threaten the middle of the field to take attention off their outside receivers, and he believes Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews would be a good fit for Jacksonville’s No. 29 overall selection.
  • Florida DT Taven Bryan has been generating a lot of buzz lately, per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, who tweets that the Gator could be a top-25 pick. Miller suggests the Falcons, who are working out another DT in N.C. State’s B.J. Hill, could be a fit.
  • Miller tweets that three offensive tackles are considered locks for Round 1: Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, and UCLA’s Kolton Miller.
  • UCF’s Mike Hughes has a great deal of upside and is the No. 15 overall prospect in Daniel Jermiah’s most recent Top 50 rankings. However, Miller believes that, because of Hughes’ off-field concerns, he could be the fourth or fifth CB off the board (Twitter link).
  • There are four linebackers expected to be taken in the first round, per Miller (via Twitter): Evans, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, and Georgia’s Roquan Smith. Miller says Edmunds’ stock is rising rapidly and that he should be a top-10 selection.

CB Mike Hughes Generating Interest From Several Teams

Cornerback Mike Hughes is generating a lot of interest headed into the draft. Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com writes that the UCF product met with the Panthers and Saints yesterday at the school’s pro day. The prospect is also set to visit the Bears, Eagles, Vikings, Packers, Buccaneers, and Chiefs, and he’ll meet again with Carolina.

During the pro day, Hughes ultimately “stood on his combine numbers,” but the defensive back did do several drills (including fielding punts). The general consensus was that the prospect looked better yesterday than he did at the NFL Combine.

Hughes, who is currently ranked 18th in NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah‘s listing of the top-50 free agents, had a breakout campaign in 2017. After playing in only 10 games with North Carolina between 2015 and 2016, Hughes appeared in 13 games with UCF last season. He ultimately finished the campaign with 37 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and four interceptions.

Considering the Panthers met with Hughes yesterday and plan on hosting him for a visit, we can only assume that the organization has serious interest in the prospect. Even with Ross Cockrell now in the mix, the team is apparently still seeking reinforcement at the cornerback position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.