With news that the Falcons aren’t exercising Hayden Hurst‘s fifth-year option, it’s official that Atlanta traded a second-round pick for two years of average tight end play. The former South Carolina Gamecock would cost $5,428,000 against next year’s cap if his option were picked up, which obviously the Falcons didn’t see the value in.
There are a few reasons Terry Fontenot decided against picking up Hurst’s fifth year, but first and foremost, a once-in-a-generation tight end fell into his lap named Kyle Pitts. There are also other factors working against Hurst, mainly his inability to block, something Arthur Smith’s offense can’t workaround. Cutting him pre or post-June 1st wouldn’t make sense given the dead cap Hurst would carry — over $1,300,000 either way. Trading him would carry no dead cap and save Atlanta almost $2,000,000 against this year’s cap. There is reason to believe Hurst nets the Falcons a fifth or sixth-round compensatory pick in 2023, but could Terry Fontenot trade him away now for draft capital in 2022 while simultaneously creating cap space in 2021?
Drew Sample was a second-round pick in 2019 and is currently the Bengals TE1. Joe Burrow is already surrounded by Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, so there could be a reason to believe they’d upgrade the tight end position to be able to threaten the middle of the field more effectively. Hurst would be an immediate upgrade at the position over Sample as a receiving threat.
The Cowboys went all-in on the defensive side of the ball in the draft, but their tight end position could still use bolstering. Blake Jarwin caught one pass last year, and Mike McCarthy’s offense has been most effective with a receiving threat at tight end. Jermichael Finley was crucial to the early success of Aaron Rodgers. In an offense dependent on winning one-on-ones, Hurst would thrive surrounded by Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, and Michael Gallup.
Matt Rhule and Joe Brady may have found the steal of the draft in Terrance Marshall at the end of the second round, but the tight end position was addressed with Tommy Tremble, who is more of a blocking tight end than a receiving one. Hurst would be an immediate upgrade over Dan Arnold and give Rhule and Brady’s offense one more receiving threat.
I don’t see the Falcons garnering much more than a fifth or sixth-round pick for Hurst’s services, but it could make sense to lessen the burden of the salary cap this year.