The most confusing part of NFL free agency is how teams structure contracts. The Falcons have been wise in their approach, giving out almost all of the guarantees in the first year of the contract. This leaves the team protected on the back end of the deals, which is exactly what they did with Mike Hughes.
Initially, fans see a five-year, $100 million deal and assume the player gets $20 million yearly. Rarely is that the case. Mike Hughes‘ deal is worth $7 million across two years, but it’s not really worth $3.5 million per year.
The Falcons are essentially paying Hughes $3.24 million for one year. His cap hit in 2023 is just north of $3 million and will rise to nearly $4 million in 2024. However, the dead cap associated with cutting him next offseason is less than $1 million and more than $3 million in cap savings.
It’s a solid deal for Hughes, who gets a decent amount guaranteed. There’s a chance he works out in Atlanta and plays out the remaining year of his contract.
Hughes isn’t some lockdown cover man. He’s struggled in that area for much of his career, but he’s shown an ability to play in the slot and on the boundary, providing versatility to a secondary that dealt with tons of injuries last year. Moreover, he’s a willing and effective tackler and blitzer — necessary traits for a slot defender.
Interestingly, the Falcons are paying Hughes a similar amount as the 49ers are paying Isaiah Oliver. The former Falcons’ second-round pick is earning $6.65 million over two years in San Francisco. Oliver had turned into a productive player in the slot and was a free agent I was hopeful that Atlanta would bring back.
With Ryan Nielsen replacing Dean Pees, that could’ve been the reason Oliver wasn’t re-signed, or he might have wanted to play for a legitimate contender. The Falcons are probably paying a slightly worse player slightly more money, but it’s still a fine deal.
Photographer: Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire
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