In wild NFL offseason, new Detroit Lions signings eager to ‘have fun and just play ball’

Detroit Free Press

The wildest offseason in NFL history, with the trades of Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Davante Adams, Matt Ryan and Khalil Mack, keeps getting crazier by the day,

But hours after his ex-teammate Tyreek Hill was surprisingly dealt to the Miami Dolphins, new Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Hughes said he’s come to realize insanity is part of the business.

“This is my third NFL team, I’m going on Year 5,” Hughes said. “Like I said, it’s a business and you start to learn. You kind of expect some of these things and it’s not really — I mean, it’s still surprising, but like I said, it’s a business.”

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Hughes officially signed his one-year contract with the Lions on Wednesday, not long after the Kansas City Chiefs traded Hill to the Dolphins in the latest in a string of offseason blockbusters.

The AFC’s Dolphins, Denver Broncos (Wilson and Randy Gregory), Las Vegas Raiders (Adams and Chandler Jones), Los Angeles Chargers (Mack and J.C. Jackson), Indianapolis Colts (Ryan) and Cleveland Browns (Watson) have joined an arm’s race that’s shifted the balance of power in the NFL, while the Lions and many of the league’s NFC teams have added to their talent bases in more understated fashion.

Hughes, a part-time starter for the Chiefs last season, is expected to compete for a starting role this fall in the Lions’ young secondary.

Linebacker Chris Board, who officially signed his one-year deal Wednesday, said he, too, hopes to compete for playing time on defense after being primarily a special teams player throughout his career.

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The Lions, coming off a 3-13-1 season, have added just four outside free agents to their roster since the 2022 league year opened last week: Hughes, Board, receiver DJ Chark and tight end Garrett Griffin, whose deal will not be official until he finishes his annual two-week spring commitment to the Air Force.

“I think it was a perfect opportunity for me to come in and try to compete for a spot,” Hughes said. “I think it’s just a great opportunity for me and my career at this point. Having a talk with coach (Dan) Campbell and those defensive guys, they got a plan for me that I think is a good opportunity for me, like I said, and I just wanted to come in here, have fun and just play ball.”

Hughes played primarily as an outside cornerback for the Chiefs last season, when he had one interception and forced four fumbles while playing in all 17 games for the first time in his career.

A first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, Hughes missed 10 games as a rookie with a torn ACL and most of the 2020 season with neck injuries.

Missing so much time with injuries “was definitely a hurdle to get over” mentally, Hughes said. And even though he has, he said, “I think I’ve still got a lot to prove.”

“Coming up from those significant injuries, I don’t think a lot of guys can bounce back from them,” Hughes said. “I’m just blessed to even be in this position to show that I can come back and be a player that I know I can be and even better.”

Just 25 years old, Hughes is the most experienced cornerback in the Lions secondary and should add leadership and versatility to a group that returns Amani Oruwariye, AJ Parker, Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs and Ifeatu Melifonwu at the position.

He has experience playing both outside and in the slot, and said he told Lions coaches he’s willing to play “wherever they see me fit.”

Board was a core special teams player for the Baltimore Ravens in 2018-21 who took on an expanded defensive role last season.

He played on third downs and in red zone packages and said his goal in Detroit is to “help build the culture.”

“What they told me is there’s opportunity to come in and play and kind of see where the chips fall where they may,” Board said. “So I’m just kind of looking forward to that. I’m grateful, thankful just to be here and kind of just see where this goes.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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