Less than two years after drafting him 25th overall, the Baltimore Ravens appear open to trading tight end Hayden Hurst, according to multiple reports, with a handful of teams already rumored to be after the South Carolina product.
The Florida Times-Union's Eugene Frennette reported Monday that the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars are exploring pre-draft deals for Hurst, who "wants (the) opportunity to catch more passes." Since then, The Athletic's Jeff Howe has indicated "there's a real chance" the Ravens move Hurst this offseason, while CLNS Media's Evan Lazar suggested Baltimore isn't "actively shopping" the tight end but is "taking calls" ahead of free agency.
The reality is most NFL teams take calls on most players; they just don't advertise it. But Hurst is still a notable case in that the Ravens made him the first TE pick of the 2018 draft and saw Hurst more than double his rookie-year production in 2019. The 26-year-old also has two seasons remaining on the reasonable four-year, $11 million contract he signed coming into the NFL.
The most logical reason for Baltimore fielding inquiries about Hurst may very well be the third-year reserve's alleged desire for a larger role. The Ravens deploy multiple TEs regularly as part of their run-first offense, but Hurst trailed both Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in targets and catches during quarterback Lamar Jackson's breakout MVP campaign, making him something like the fifth option in the passing game. Hurst, of course, has also been lauded for his run-blocking abilities, but there isn't necessarily a clear lane for him to up his 2019 numbers (30 catches, 349 yards) in the near future.
If Baltimore is, in fact, willing to deal the former first-rounder in 2020, here are five potential suitors:
It's a safe bet they're going to cut ties with Jimmy Graham, so they'll be in the market for a TE. They're also just one year removed from striking gold on another former Raven in Za'Darius Smith. From Baltimore's perspective, they'd be able to ship Hurst out of the conference. And Green Bay is loaded with 2020 draft picks.
There's a reason Frennette reported the Jags are exploring a deal for Hurst. Their top two TEs right now are Geoff Swaim and James O'Shaughnessy. Jacksonville, of course, is also strapped for cash, but they've got some salary-saving moves on the way, and they'll want to ensure whomever is under center -- likely Gardner Minshew -- has more weapons.
New England Patriots
They've been screaming for TE help ever since Rob Gronkowski retired, and you just know Bill Belichick would love Hurst's versatility. The only downside here is that the Ravens aren't going to want to aid New England in any way. The only way this one would work is if the Patriots blatantly and openly overpaid with an early draft pick.
Again, trading within the conference wouldn't be ideal for Baltimore, but the Titans haven't been averse to trades with other AFC teams in years past. And they could be on the lookout for younger TE help with Delanie Walker about to enter his age-36 season with a high salary cap hit. Adding another middle-of-the-field target would help the whole offense.
Jordan Reed is out after an injury-plagued close to his D.C. career, and Ron Rivera will be looking to bolster the supporting cast of young QB Dwayne Haskins. He also long relied on the TE in Carolina, where Greg Olsen was often featured as one of Cam Newton's top targets. Another bonus: A deal here would, again, allow Baltimore to move Hurst to the NFC.