Hughes spent the 2022 season with the Detroit Lions. Tori McElhaney
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons have signed Mike Hughes to a two-year deal, the organization announced on Monday.
Hughes comes to the Falcons from Detroit, where he spent the 2022 season. In said season, Hughes saw action in 16 games, making six starts (a career-high for Hughes).
Though he's mainly been an outside corner throughout his career, Hughes does have a little experience in the slot, particularly last year with Detroit, lining up inside 220 times and outside 268 times, according to PFF.
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What may have attracted the Falcons to Hughes, though, may have been his run-stopping ability even as a primary outside corner during his career. Though Hughes' coverage grade landed at 51.4 last year, his run defense grade landed at 81.1 with an overall tackling grade of 71.0 (also according to PFF). The Falcons and defensive back Isaiah Oliver parted ways when free agency began with Oliver heading to the 49ers. Could Hughes see some reps within the slot that's been vacated by Oliver? Perhaps, if that's the direction new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen wants to go with his defense. If not, Hughes still provides depth to a position thats depth was tested in 2022, as well as starting caliber history.
As a true outside corner, Hughes has been tested since entering the league in 2018, and not just tested by the league's receivers but by the league's demands on the body. Hughes battled through injuries after the Vikings selected him with the 30th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He tore his ACL in October of his rookie year, missing the remainder of the season after only seeing action in six games. Then, a neck injury kept him off the field for the final few games of the 2019 season. It was an injury that lingered into the next year, and Hughes was only able to play in four games in 2020.
The Vikings chose not to extend Hughes' fifth-year option to him after the 2020 season, so the cornerback hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. He spent a year with the Chiefs and a year with the Lions. Throughout those two seasons, Hughes has seen action in 33 games, making 11 starts, with one interception, four forced fumbles, seven PBUs (six coming in 2021) and 98 combined tackles. Quarterbacks have a 68.3 percent completion rate when targeting Hughes the last two years, per PFF.
The Falcons have made a few moves already to sure up its secondary depth, mainly signing safety Jessie Bates III to a mammoth of a deal. Atlanta still has A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward under contract, as well as safeties Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins. Bringing in Hughes and re-signing Cornell Armstrong continues to ensure depth in the secondary as free agency rolls forward.
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