Several Atlanta Falcons players are hard at work at OTA’s (organized team activities) this week, which are in place to get players in shape for the team’s minicamp that kicks off June 8.
And one player, in particular, tight end Hayden Hurst, is getting a lot of attention. Head coach Arthur Smith complimented the veteran pass-catcher during Wednesday’s presser.
“Hayden’s done a nice job, day-to-day, and Hayden’s a really valuable member of this football team. We have high expectations for Hayden and he knows that,” said Smith. “Very pleased with Hayden’s maturity and what he’s brought day in and day out thus far.”
In addition, the Falcons’ new digital manager, Scott Bair, reported that Hurst is “a man on a mission this year with several reasons why. He’s down to 8 percent body fat and is poised to have a big year.” Bair noted that he would share some more details on Hurst later today.
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The Falcons Passed on Hurst’s Fifth-Year Option
The Falcons traded with the Baltimore Ravens for Hurst during the 2020 offseason. In his first season with Atlanta, Hurst posted a career-high 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns and 88 targets.
However, to Atlanta, that wasn’t enough to pick up his fifth-year option. The 27-year-old is set to get a salary of $1.349 million fully guaranteed for 2021 and if the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option, then they would have paid Hurst $5.428 million in 2022.
Hurst has always been one to prove himself since his college days and it looks like he’s ready to show the Falcons what they missed out on.
On top of passing up his option, the Falcons drafted his “replacement” in Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. While he will give Hurst plenty of competition during minicamp, Smith is a fan of running an offense that features two tight ends, so we could end up seeing them on the field together.
There is Plenty of Room for Hurst on the Field
In fact, Falcons tight ends coach Justin Peelle is certain that a multiple tight end formation is what Smith will be using in Atlanta.
“If you look at coach Smith’s past, he’s a multiple tight end, multiple personnel grouping,” Peelle said, via Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Both of those guys, I’m fairly confident, will be on the field at the same time.”
In Tennesee last season, Smith had four tight ends who played more than 200 snaps and the most frequent formation he used was 12 personnel, which consists of one running back and two TEs.
Peelle has been following Hurst’s progress since the 2018 draft and has been in complete awe of his transformation from baseball to football in a short amount of time.
For those of you who don’t know, Hurst was following his MLB dream until he developed the “yips” and could no longer throw that ball. He decided to pick up a football for the first time in years and walked on at South Carolina, and never looked back.
“Hayden has gotten better,” Peelle said. “You can see his growth as well, getting better, constantly getting better. He’s a guy that plays with tremendous effort. It’s important to him, very unselfish. … You can see him just getting better.”