Veteran free-agent cornerback Mike Hughes chose to sign with the Detroit Lions Wednesday for the opportunity to come in and compete for playing time.
"Having a talk with coach (Dan) Campbell and the defensive (coaches), they have a plan for me that I think is a good opportunity for me," Hughes said Wednesday after signing with Detroit. "I just want to come in here and have fun and just play ball."
Selected 30th overall out of the University of Central Florida in 2018, Hughes spent his first three seasons in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings. He appeared in 24 games during his time with the Vikings, including seven starts, but missed extensive time with both knee and neck injuries.
Hughes was traded to Kansas City ahead of the 2021 season and appeared in every regular season game for the first time in his career, making five starts. He logged more than 500 defensive snaps, the most of his career, and another 165 on special teams. He finished the year with a career-high 47 tackles, six passes defended, one interception and four forced fumbles (second among all NFL CBs) with a fumble return touchdown.
"I think I still got a lot to prove," Hughes said. "Coming off of those significant injuries, I don't think a lot of guys can bounce back from that. I'm just blessed to even be in this position to show that I can come back and be the player that I know I can be."
Hughes has experience playing both outside and in the slot throughout his career, and expects to come in and compete for a starting role at either spot. Amani Oruwariye returns as the Lions' No. 1 cornerback on the outside after a breakout 2021 season. Second-year cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu showed some good things on the outside last season when healthy, as did slot corner AJ Parker. The team is also expected to get Jeff Okudah (Achilles) and Jerry Jacobs (ACL) back before the start of the season to compete for playing time.
Hughes, 25, allowed five touchdown passes in his coverage last season, per Pro Football Reference stats, but opposing quarterbacks completed just 59 percent of their passes when throwing his way (36-for-61). He said last year was huge for him to play a full season and get his confidence back while learning to trust his body again.
Go behind the scenes with the Detroit Lions during 2022 free agency.
"Just go out there and play. Playing ball and having fun," Hughes said. "That's the most important thing. When you start worrying about injuries and other things, I think that's when things actually start to happen. For me, I'm just trying to go out there and play ball and have fun."
In 41 career games played (12 starts), Hughes has accumulated 127 tackles (107 solo), three interceptions, 19 pass defenses, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. He has also returned 21 punts for 185 yards (8.8 avg.) and five kickoffs for 132 yards (26.4 avg.) throughout his career.