Hayden Hurst has reportedly reached a free agency decision.
According to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, Hurst has agreed to a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.
Hurst signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on a one-year deal this past offseason.
Hurst has had an interesting football journey thus far before joining the Cincinnati Bengals. The former baseball pitcher initially skipped college in 2012 to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, though he made just two minor league appearances.
The 6-foot-4 Hurst then walked on to the South Carolina football team in 2015. He became a standout player in 2016-17 before declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft, where he was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. After two years, he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, then wasn’t re-signed last year before the Bengals signed him.
Hurst is an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year deal in the 2022 offseason worth $3.5 million. Spotrac projected him to sign another one-year deal for $6.8 million this offseason, largely due to him turning 30 years old this coming August, and he’s had some durability issues.
In 13 regular-season games this past year, Hurst caught 52 balls on 68 targets for 414 yards and two touchdowns. In three playoff games, he caught 13 passes on 17 targets for 141 yards and one score. He did so while battling a calf injury for much of the season that led to him missing several games.
When healthy, there’s no question Hurst is the kind of guy who can make a major impact on a title-contending team. His efforts this past postseason nearly helped Cincinnati reach a second-straight Super Bowl.
This also means that, unless the Bengals sign an outside tight end, that’s a position they’ll almost certainly address within the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Best of luck to Hurst in Carolina!