After releasing former Chargers defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi, the Buffalo Bills quickly filled his open spot, adding former New Orleans Saints DT John Hughes into the fold. Hughes signed a 1-year deal.
Originally a 3rd round pick (87th overall) by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft, out of the University of Cincinnati, Hughes was able to contribute early, showing out as a very good run stopping DT for the Browns. He earned a +16.0 run defense grade by Pro Football Focus in 2013 and was pegged as a “secret superstar” by the analytics site in the same year. He signed a 4-year, $14.4 million contract extension with the Browns in 2015, but after playing his first five seasons there, Hughes was released in 2016.
One week after leaving Cleveland, Hughes signed with the New England Patriots, where new Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was working at the time, but on a different side of the ball. His stint with the Patriots lasted only one week, not playing even one game for them. After his release, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Hughes for the remainder of the season. He played five games there, registering six tackles. In 2017, Hughes signed with the Saints, playing eight games and registering 10 tackles in a rotational DT role, earning a 74.5 PFF overall grade, before suffering a torn biceps injury in week 16 and being placed on injured reserve.
The mammoth 6’2″ 320 lbs DT is a run-stopping specialist with experience playing at 1-, 3-, and even 5-technique as a 3-4 DE. He definitely fits the mold of the DTs that Bills general manager Brandon Beane has been looking for during this offseason and comes in battling for a spot on the 53-man roster with Adolphus Washington.
At 30 years old, Hughes is a player who had his best production early in his career and is now is trying to prove he still can play at that level, just like recently signed linebacker Keenan Robinson. He brings experience, and his strength is exactly at where the Bills’ defense struggled last year. If Washington doesn’t step up his game, then Hughes has a decent shot at making this team.