The Cleveland Browns may not need to look outside their division to add another weapon to the offense, with the team showing interest in Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst.
Dawgs By Nature’s Jared Mueller dropped some significant tidbits from the NFL combine, including that the Browns are interested in both Hurst and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Foster Moreau.
The Browns are expected to explore their options for a reliable tight end via free agency to pair with David Njoku, who is coming off a solid season where he caught a career-high 58 passes for 628 yards and four touchdowns.
Hurst had a solid season of his own with the Bengals, notching 52 catches for 414 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hurst is set to be a free agent this offseason, although there’s a chance the Bengals will work hard to retain their top tight end. Hurst was playing on just a one-year contract worth $3.5 million last season. He previously played with the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons.
The Browns will likely not be as tight end heavy as they have been in the past under Kevin Stefanski, although the Cleveland skipper and offensive play-caller loves using 12 and 13 personnel. Having two proven pass-catching options at the position — along with fourth-year TE Harrison Bryant — could be key in the offense finding its footing.
Njoku Has High Hopes for Relationship With QB Deshaun Watson
Njoku has high hopes for what his partnership with quarterback Deshaun Watson could develop into, mentioning Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro duo Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce as the pairing he’d like to simulate.
“First off, those two are legendary, you know what I mean?” Njoku said in December. “All the kudos to them, Patrick and Trav and, yeah, I feel like we can definitely do things similar to that as well. It’s only a matter of time, so I’m very excited.”
Njoku hasn’t had the smoothest tenure in Cleveland. He came to the Browns as a first-round pick with freak athleticism but injuries paired with some down years generated some questions about his future. However, Njoku put his head down and battled through the adversity — and even a failed trade demand — inking a four-year, $56.75 million contract extension with the Browns last offseason.
“His game has evolved and I’m really proud of him and the work that he’s put in,” Stefanski said after Njoku signed the extension. “Watching his blocking develop over the course of time that I’ve been here, he’s really bought in, he’s obviously big enough and strong enough to do a lot of those jobs.”
Browns Have Also Have Interest in Bengals Safety Jessie Bates
Hurst is not the only Bengals player set to hit free agency that the Browns have an interest in. There’s been a lot of talk about the Browns courting safety Jessie Bates III in free agency as a potential replacement for recently-released starter John Johnson III.
However, the idea of landing Bates could be a pipe dream, per Brad Stainbrook of the Orange and Brown Report.
“That Jessie Bates interest might be a bit dramatic,” Stainbrook reported. “The Browns are worried about that price tag, meaning they might have to look elsewhere for a new safety, such as the draft or a cheaper free agent. A player like Juan Thornhill makes the most sense to me.”
Bates is projected to land a deal in free agency with a value of $14 million per year, per Spotrac.