The Cincinnati Bengals signed tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason to fill some pretty big shoes. Tight end C.J. Uzomah had quite the impact last season both on and off the field, and his departure did come at quite the shock even to the Bengals themselves.
Cincinnati also didn’t draft a tight end, so it appears Hurst will be taking over Uzomah’s spot. At least it appears that way.
- Height: 6’ 4”
- Weight: 250
- Age: 28
- College: South Carolina
- Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
- Experience: 5th year
Hurst and the Bengals agreed on a one-year contract worth up to just under $3.5 million. He is set to hit free agency again following this season.
Hurst has had an interesting NFL career. He was drafted in the first round by the Ravens in 2018. He was actually selected before the team eventually traded back into the first to select quarterback Lamar Jackson, so fun trivia fact there down the line.
Also notably taken in that draft was tight end Mark Andrews, who quickly surpassed Hurst and had an instant connection with Jackson that has propelled Andrews into being one of the best tight end in the NFL.
That was a bit of bad luck for Hurst, especially with the expectations of being a first-round pick. He then signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020, which was a strange season for everyone. He started nine games and had 57 catches for 571 yards with six touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per catch.
Any momentum from that season was quickly halted when the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts in the 2021 draft. It was obvious that Pitts was going to play a big role, so Hurst’s numbers dropped back down to what we saw during his time in Baltimore.
Fit with Bengals
Hurst is exactly what this passing games needs after Uzomah left. They are not the same tight end at all. Uzomah was more of a good at a lot but not great at anything. Hurst definitely leaves something to be desired as a blocker, but he could be relied on a bit more in the passing game on a consistent basis.
It isn’t hyperbole to say this is the best offense that Hurst has played in where he will be the top pass catching tight end. He is surrounded by guys like receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Even a guy like Joe Mixon coming out of the backfield will warrant attention from the defense.
Hurst isn’t equipped to be the second or third-best option on an offense. He is the kind of player who can thrive in the role he is being presented, though. It is pretty obvious that Drew Sample will handle more of the blocking duties than Hurst, which will hurt how often we will see Hurst on the field.
However, he could still be a safety blanket when the defenses are forced to adjust by taking away the deep ball this upcoming season. Even making plays in the seems when safeties are forced to cheat towards Chase or Higgins.
For what it’s worth, Hurst has drawn praise from multiple teammates for his performance in training camp thus far, according to Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson.
“He can really move for his size,” said cornerback Mike Hilton. “He gives the quarterback a big frame to go across the middle. I feel like he’ll be a mismatch in our offense.
“I think this is the perfect spot for him. With all the weapons and quarterback we have, he’s going to get a lot of opportunities to win his one-on-ones.”
Unfortunately, Hurst hasn’t been able to practice with quarterback Joe Burrow due to his appendectomy, so they’ve not been able to build any real chemistry yet. That’s why no one should freak out if Hurst doesn’t make a big impact early in the regular season. Perhaps we’ll see him become a bigger part of the offense as the season rolls on.
Hurst isn’t going to go off and have ridiculous numbers. He is just what this offense needs. A guy who can make a big play when asked to beat favorable coverage. It will be interesting to see how this will work out if he does have a solid season.
Roster Odds: 95%