Ex-Ravens First-Round Pick Signs 1-Year Deal With AFC North Rival

Hayden Hurst

Getty Hayden Hurst #81 of the Baltimore Ravens hurdles Joe Haden #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Former Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst has joined the Cincinnati Bengals on a one-year contract, as first announced by his agency, EnterSports Management, on Twitter.

Mike Kaye of Pro Football Network later reported that Hurst would be signing with the reigning AFC champions for one year and $3.5 million, “with another $1 million that can be reached with incentives.”

He’ll have a chance to earn a starting job in Cincinnati after 2021 starter C.J. Uzomah signed a $24 million deal with the New York Jets, per Heavy’s Paul Esden. The 28-year-old tight end should have plenty of favorable matchups sharing the field with the Bengals’ dangerous receiving trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.

But Hurst’s NFL career thus far has been marked by disappointment, especially considering his original draft position.

Hurst was selected by the Ravens in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, appearing in 28 games over his first two seasons before he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. But after Hurst failed to prove himself as a starter in 2020, the Falcons took Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in 2021, limiting Hurst to just 31 targets, though he caught all but five of them.

Hurst’s reliable hands will be key to earning playing time in Cincinnati. He only has three drops in his four-year career, per Pro Football Focus, making him a solid but unspectacular addition to the Bengals’ offense.

Former Ravens Teammate Reacts to Signing

Hurst expressed his excitement over landing in Cincinnati on Twitter, drawing a response from Ravens veteran safety Tony Jefferson.

Jefferson and Hurst overlapped in Baltimore for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, though Jefferson played only five games in 2019 before blowing out his knee. The pair are now set to play each other twice in 2022 after Jefferson re-signed with the Ravens in late February.

Hurst will likely receive a warm reception when he visits Baltimore later this year, as he’s primarily remembered as a member of the Ravens’ historic 2018 draft class and record-setting 2019 offense.

Hurst was Baltimore’s first pick in 2018, but he was far from their best. He was selected before future Pro Bowlers like Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr., as well as starters like DeShon Elliott, Bradley Bozeman and Anthony Averett.

After struggling to earn playing time as a rookie, Hurst eventually carved out a role as the Ravens’ third tight end in 2019, catching 30 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns. He also earned a career-high 73.1 overall grade from PFF, pumping up his trade value enough to fetch a 2020 second-round pick from the Falcons, which Baltimore then used to select running back J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State.

Ex-Raven Maxx Williams Re-Signs With Cardinals

Another former Ravens tight end got paid this week, with 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams re-signing with the Arizona Cardinals. 

Williams will pair up with Zach Ertz, who also extended his stay in Arizona, per Heavy’s Ryan Sanudo, for another year alongside Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, though Christian Kirk left for a massive payday in Jacksonville.

Williams was primarily a blocking tight end in Baltimore, but he’s shown more upside as a receiver in Arizona when he’s able to stay healthy. He’ll have a good chance of breaking his career-highs of 48 targets, 32 catches and 268 receiving yards – all set during his rookie year in Baltimore – if he can stay on the field in 2022.

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