Hayden Hurst had a solid season as a receiver in his first year with the Falcons, but while Calvin Ridley‘s impending 5th-year option is a no-brainer… Hurst raises a few questions. He has shown plenty of flashes in the passing game, but he can disappear at times, and with no run game, he’s hardly been an asset as a blocker on a weaker offensive line as well.
Declining a player’s 5th-year option doesn’t mean you just totally ditch them. Teams can still work out an extension; the 5th year is just an expensive guaranteed year. Hurst was an older 1st round pick; he’s already 27 years old, and his PFF grade wasn’t very kind to him, finishing 58th out of 73 qualified tight ends. Part of that is the Dirk Koetter experience, but Hurst hasn’t been the guy Atlanta fans thought they were getting when they moved a second-round pick to Baltimore to acquire him. That pick turned into JK Dobbins, who the Falcons probably would have loved to add in hindsight, given their struggles at the running back position. I really like Hayden Hurst, but there’s a serious debate at hand.
Examining the 2017 draft class, OJ Howard (who was selected 19th) had his fifth-year option picked up for slightly over $6 million. Hurst could be a tad cheaper than that, but for keeping good graces and saving the headache of negotiation, I think exercising it is the right move. In a vacuum, maybe you turn it down and see how he responds in a new system, but Atlanta gave up a second-round pick for a reason for this guy.
However, it will be up to the new regime. Since they didn’t make the investment in Hurst, it will be much easier for them to recognize him as a sunk cost and move on. While some Falcons fans may not want to hear that — in reality — that is how every decision should be evaluated. We will see how the new general manager and head coach value Hurst, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they decided not to pick up his fifth-year option given how cap-strapped this organization is moving forward.