Falcons: Grading the Hayden Hurst deal

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With the new CBA officially accepted, the Falcons wasted little time making a number of significant transactions. The day began early Monday morning when it was reported Atlanta would be moving on from former Pro-Bowl cornerback, Desmond Trufant. It continued with the cuts of Devonta Freeman, Ty Sambrailo, and Luke Stocker, but no move was more eye-popping than the decision to trade for a former first-round pick, Hayden Hurst, to replace Austin Hooper, who became the highest-paid tight end in football yesterday courtesy of the Cleveland Browns.

The Deal

Falcons receive Hayden Hurt and a fourth-round pick for a second-round pick (No. 55 from New England) and a fifth-round pick

If you’re looking at this from the Ravens’ perspective, you have to be ecstatic to receive a second-round selection — similar to what the Texans received for Pro-Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins — for a third-string tight end. Baltimore found a diamond in Mark Andrews and already agreed to an extension with Nick Boyle, making Hurst expendable. Nobody should be complaining on their end, but the reviews from Atlanta’s perspective may vary.

The upcoming draft is a must nail for Thomas Dimitroff and company. The Falcons already had several holes heading into Monday, and many more opened up following the cuts of Desmond Trufant, Devonta Freeman, and Luke Stocker. Luckily, they had three picks in the first two rounds, giving them some semblance of hopes that this could be a one-year turnaround. Now, one of those is gone — and as many have said in our mentions — for a third-string tight end.

The thing is, though, Hurst is not your typical third-string tight end. He’s a former first-round selection that is a fantastic all-around athlete, who was originally selected in the MLB Draft. Instead, he walked on at South Carolina and became respected as one of the best tight ends in the country.

As a Raven, his rookie year was hampered by a foot injury, but he showed some promise last year, catching 30 balls for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Nothing to write home about, but as a third-string tight end in a run-heavy offense, it is better than it looks on the box score. Hurst has also only dropped one pass over his brief two-year career and is a trustworthy blocker that should be an upgrade over Austin Hooper in that department.

In a more pass-heavy offense that features the tight end as much as the Falcons do under Dirk Koetter, Hurst numbers should go through the roof. He may not quite be Austin Hooper as a receiver just yet, but he can do many of the same things, and there is similar upside.

The Falcons also had to find an economical replacement for Austin Hooper. We can argue whether the Falcons should or should not have made Hoop the highest-paid tight end in football, but that’s a conversation for another day. Since they decided they could not afford him, they had to find someone to take his place. No free agents were particularly appealing, and nobody in the draft was ready to be a day one starter.

With Hurst being a first-round draft pick, the Falcons will owe him around $3 million this year, $3.5 million next year, and will have a team option on him for the 2022 season. If he can give them similar production to Hooper, It will undoubtedly be worth the late second-round selection they gave up, especially since they also swapped a fifth-round pick for a fourth-round pick in the process. Given their situation, Atlanta was a little desperate, which played into the value they were forced to part ways with, but this could still end up being real quality move with some high upside.

Grade: C+

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