Mike Hughes

Vikings Work Out Morris Claiborne

The Vikings worked out Morris Claiborne on Friday, sources tell Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Claiborne could provide the team with additional depth during a slightly rocky time for the secondary. 

Rising sophomore Mike Hughes, who suffered a torn ACL in 2018, opened up camp on the PUP list, leaving the team thin at cornerback. Furthermore, Holton Hill has been suspended for eight games (substance abuse and PEDs), so the Vikings are doing their due diligence.

Claiborne, 29, spent the past two seasons with the Jets and has played on one-year deals for the past three seasons. He hasn’t really excelled since his 2016 season with the Cowboys, when he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 ranked corner in a limited sample of seven games. Last year, Claiborne graded out as just the No. 75 CB in the NFL out of 112 qualified players, per PFF.

The Vikings also kicked the tires on veteran Orlando Scandrick this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: XFL, Giants, Vikings

The AAF may have imploded in spectacular fashion, but that doesn’t mean people are done taking cracks at spring football leagues. Vince McMahon’s XFL is gearing up to start play early next year, and they’ve already made some big hires. They’re now moving on to filling out the rosters, and some recognizable names are resurfacing. We heard a couple days ago that Landry Jones, Aaron Ripkowski, and Christine Michael would be auditioning, and now we have even more names to report. Trevone Boykin, Lance Dunbar, Kony Ealy, and Ahmad Dixon were at a showcase yesterday as well as a handful of other ex-NFLers, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

According to a tweet from Optimum Scouting’s Erik Galko, former Seahawks receiver Kasen Williams will also be among those trying out. Finally, a tweet posted by the XFL Houston account shows that NFL veterans Will Hill and Robert Meachem also participated in a camp. Meachem is 34 and last played in the NFL with the Saints back in 2014, so this would be quite the comeback. While the XFL will still be facing an uphill battle, they do appear to be in better position than the AAF. McMahon seems fully invested in the league, and the TV deal the league has is far superior. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • Speaking of the XFL, one of their big hires was when they named Daryl “Moose” Johnston the director of player personnel for their Dallas franchise. Johnston was the GM of the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders, so he has experience in this type of league. Most players in the AAF and XFL were looking to get back to the NFL, and it’s no different for coaches and execs. Johnston wants to be an NFL GM one day, per Machota. Johnston spent all 11 years of his pro career with the Cowboys as a fullback, winning three Super Bowls with the team. He made the Pro Bowl twice and has done a lot of broadcasting work for FOX since retiring.
  • Evan Engram missed the Giants’ recent minicamp, which raised some eyebrows. But thankfully he’s not dealing with anything serious, as Engram said today at Landon Collins‘ charity softball game that the Giants were just being “cautious” by holding him out, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Twitter link). He also writes there’s “nothing lingering from last season.” Engram had a breakout rookie season in 2017, but took a step back last year while dealing with injuries. Hamstring and knee injuries limited Engram to just 11 games last year, but he finished strong down the stretch. In each of his last four games he finished with at least 75 yards, so he should be poised for a bounce back 2019 campaign.
  • 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes got off to a solid start last year. The Vikings cornerback had a pick-six in the first game of his career, but his rookie season ended in devastating fashion. The UCF product had his season ended by a torn ACL after just six games, and has been rehabbing ever since. Things appear to be going well, but the team is being cautious with him. To that end, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer recently said that he wouldn’t get any practice in until training camp at the earliest, per Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune. We heard recently the Vikings were listening to trade offers for both Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, which would seem to indicate they’re optimistic about Hughes’ recovery.

Vikings To Place Mike Hughes On IR

The Vikings feared their first-round pick tore an ACL on Sunday, and subsequent tests confirmed those fears.

Mike Hughes will be placed on IR and miss the rest of the season, Mike Zimmer said Monday. Hughes went down during Minnesota’s Week 6 victory over Arizona and will now be rehabbing toward a goal of being ready in time for the 2019 season.

The late-first-round selection started two games for the Vikings and represented the latest major investment at cornerback, joining Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. The latter three remain healthy for the now 3-2-1 Vikings, whose depth at corner will be tested.

Pro Football Focus graded Hughes’ abbreviated season as a mid-level effort, placing the Central Florida product as the league’s No. 68 corner through six games. He did deliver some early production, intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown. He forced and recovered a fumble, deflected three passes and made 39 tackles.

Hughes’ rookie contract runs through the 2021 season, with a fifth-year option in place for 2022. The Vikings also have return man Marcus Sherels on the roster, but he hasn’t played on defense this season. Rookie UDFA Holton Hill‘s seen 21 snaps and is likely set for an increase in responsibility.

Vikings Fear CB Mike Hughes Has Torn ACL

The Viking believe rookie cornerback Mike Hughes suffered a torn ACL against the Cardinals, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Hughes will undergo an MRI on Monday to confirm the preliminary diagnosis.

Hughes, 21, was the Vikings’ first-round pick (No. 30 overall) in the 2018 draft, but he’s played starter’s snaps despite Minnesota head coach’s Mike Zimmer‘s usual reticence to deploy rookies. Hughes has played primarily in the slot for the Vikings, but he’s also been asked to play outside while fellow corner Trae Waynes deals with injury.

All in all, Hughes has played like a slightly-below average cornerback during his rookie campaign. Pro Football Focus grades Hughes as the No. 69 corner among 119 qualifiers, while he ranks 35th among 66 qualifiers in Football Outsiders’ success rate, which measures cornerbacks’ ability to stop opposing receivers short of the sticks. FO also charts Hughes with allowing 9.1 yards per pass, good for 48th among corners.

If Hughes is indeed out for the year, the Vikings will turn to Mackensie Alexander to man the slot, while Holton Hill could conceivably also see more snaps. Jalen Myrick is the only corner on Minnesota’s practice squad, and he could be a candidate to be promoted to the active roster. If the Vikings want to look at the free agent market, they could look at options such as David Amerson, Tony Lippett, Jeremy Lane, or Sterling Moore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Hundley, K. White, Hurst

Although many have assumed that the Packers will keep DeShone Kizer on their final roster — after all, Kizer is just one year removed from being a second-round draft pick, and Green Bay liked him enough to trade for him this offseason — Eric Baranczyk and Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com believe the Packers should keep Brett Hundley and cut Kizer if it comes to that. Baranczyk and Dougherty say the game has slowed more for Hundley than it has for Kizer, and the fact that Green Bay recently traded for Kizer should not be a factor in the team’s decision (after all, the Packers were likely to cut Damarious Randall anyway if Cleveland hadn’t been willing to deal Kizer for him). Ideally, the Packers would be able to swing a trade for one of Hundley or Kizer, but failing that, the Packers News scribes think GM Brian Gutekunst should stick with Hundley, who did not play very well in relief of the injured Aaron Rodgers last year.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the league’s North divisions:

  • Wide receivers Kevin White and Javon Wims both improved their chances of making the Bears‘ 53-man roster during Chicago’s preseason victory over Kansas City last night, as Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. White, of course, was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2015 draft — and GM Ryan Pace‘s first-ever draft choice — but injuries have almost completely wiped out the first three years of his NFL career. Wims was a seventh-round selection in this year’s draft, and Jahns believes the Bears should keep both players and six receivers overall, including Josh Bellamy.
  • Although Mackensie Alexander is battling an ankle injury, he is expected to start as the Vikings‘ slot corner — and “quarterback of the defense” in head coach Mike Zimmer‘s scheme — if he is healthy, as Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune reports. However, first-round rookie Mike Hughes — who is also battling an undisclosed injury — has been pushing for first-team reps, which is fairly remarkable when considering that he did not play in the slot in college. Hughes could overtake Alexander down the line, but in any case, Minnesota appears to be well-set at the position in the long-term. Alexander, a 2016 second-rounder, has made tremendous strides in his third summer with the club.
  • Though they had been enjoying an injury- and drama-free offseason, the Ravens have been hit hard with unwelcome news over the past few days. They lost rookie TE Hayden Hurst for three-to-four weeks, they saw star CB Jimmy Smith suspended for four games — though they at least knew that was coming — and now Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic has more bad news to report. Zrebiec tweets that emerging third-year defensive tackle Willie Henry will miss several weeks with a hernia, while promising rookie safety DeShon Elliott may be out for the season with a forearm injury. Zrebiec adds that the recent spate of bad luck will impact Baltimore’s initial roster construction, because while the team will likely carry Hurst and Henry on the 53-man roster until they are ready to return, the Ravens may need to keep an extra tight end and defensive lineman until that happens (Twitter link). Elliott, meanwhile, is an IR candidate. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports that Henry had surgery for his hernia and Hurst has had surgery for the stress fracture in his foot (Twitter links).
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson wants to keep six wide receivers on the team’s regular-season roster, as Steve Doerschuk of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins make up four of those six wideouts, while sixth-round rookie Damion Ratley also stands a good chance. That means veteran Jeff Janis and relative unknowns Derrick WilliesDa’Mari Scott, and C.J. Board could be fighting it out for the last spot.

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.