Hayden Hurst

Latest On COVID-19’s NFL Impact

Although a lockout marred the 2011 NFL offseason, this year will eclipse that delayed offseason for the most unusual in the league’s modern history. Here is some of the fallout from how COVID-19 has affected the NFL during free agency and how it will impact the league going forward:

  • Some teams have inserted coronavirus-triggered language into contracts. With players not permitted to visit team facilities and take physicals and teams not allowed to have staffers meet with free agent targets, some teams have included provisions into contracts indicating that failed physicals would void signing bonus money, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports. Players are prohibited from entering team facilities until at least April, and with this likely set to be an offseason without OTAs, it could be months before free agents take physicals with their new teams. It is not known how many teams are taking this hard-line stance, Fowler notes.
  • Teams are permitted to use independent physicians for physicals, but Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (via Twitter) some of the league’s franchises are not comfortable doing so. The delay on physicals has led to most free agency deals yet to be officially announced. Some teams that have announced trades got around these rules. The Falcons and Ravens announced their Hayden Hurst-centered trade because Hurst took his physical before the COVID-19 rules went into effect, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. This delay on teams’ medical staffs being able to examine players figures to keep some free agents with injury questions unsigned and has certainly impacted the Cam Newton trade market.
  • Due to the stock market’s uncertainty because of coronavirus, multiple NFL owners instructed their front offices to defer signing bonus payments for as long as possible, Florio reports. Signing bonuses are committed to players when they sign, but teams often pay them in installments. Some teams are trying to push back the windows for some of the bonus money to be paid, Florio adds, noting that the Raiders are avoiding signing bonuses altogether. Las Vegas made multiple splashy signings early in free agency, but no details of signing bonuses emerged after those agreements.
  • Some NFL execs were unhappy the league moved forward with free agency during this unprecedented climate in North American sports. “Tone deaf is right!” a GM told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “The world has stopped. We’re in a national emergency as a country and we do this? It’s awful. We’re telling the rest of the world we don’t care.” While the NFL provided the sports-following world with a distraction this week, the uncertainty surrounding OTAs and minicamps — and the lack of pre-draft visits and workouts — will send the league into a strange period similar to what the other major American sports are navigating because of coronavirus.
  • The NFL will make some changes to the draft, and some notable unknowns still exist a month away from the annual April event.

North Notes: Steelers, Ravens, Hurst

Steelers tight end Vance McDonald has restructured his contract, reports SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). The veteran will see his $5.5MM base salary converted into a signing bonus.

The 29-year-old joined the Steelers back in 2017, and he’s turned into a solid receiving threat in Pittsburgh. After finishing with a 50/610/4 receiving line in 2018, he followed that up with 38 receptions for 273 yards and three scores this past year.

McDonald joins a number of Steelers veterans who have reworked their deals to provide the organization with more cap space. That grouping includes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who restructured his deal earlier today. With all of the Steelers moves (including cut players), they’ve opened up an estimated $35MM in cap space.

Let’s check out some more notes from the league’s northern divisions:

  • Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic looks at the who the Ravens could turn to as they look to replace retired lineman Marshal Yanda. While the team is rostering several internal options, the writer dives into the potential options in the draft and free agency. Zrebiec notes that the organization has had some luck finding starting linemen on Day 2 of the draft, and he passes along that general manager Eric DeCosta “all but guaranteed” that the organization will draft at least a pair of linemen.
  • The fourth-rounder that the Ravens sent the Falcons in the Hayden Hurst deal is their compensatory pick, tweets Jason La Canfora. Baltimore ended up receiving a second- and fifth-round pick in the deal. The Ravens drafted Hurst in the first-round in 2018, but he immediately took a backseat behind Mark Andrews, who Baltimore took in the third round of that same draft. With Austin Hooper leaving Atlanta, the Falcons had a major need at the position.
  • The Bears had interest in lineman Alex Lewis before he re-signed with the Jets, reports Caplan (via Twitter). Chicago has been looking to shake up their offense a bit, as they’re in the market for a quarterback to battle with Mitch Trubisky. The organization has also added veteran tight end Jimmy Graham.

Ravens Trade TE Hayden Hurst To Falcons

The Falcons’ tight ends room might be the busiest place in the NFL on an already wild day. After letting Austin Hooper walk and releasing Luke Stocker, the team is now making a splash trade. The Ravens have shipped tight end Hayden Hurst to Atlanta, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Baltimore is getting back an impressive haul, as they’re receiving second and fifth round picks in the 2020 draft while sending back a fourth-round selection to Atlanta. The Ravens drafted Hurst in the first-round in 2018, but he immediately took a backseat behind Mark Andrews, who Baltimore took in the third round of that same draft. Hurst missed the first handful of weeks of his rookie season after suffering a stress fracture in his foot, and he said the injury nagged him the whole year.

He ended up catching only 13 passes for 163 yards that year. While he took a step forward this past season with 30 receptions for 349 yards and two touchdowns, he was still expendable as Andrews emerged into one of the top tight ends in the league. There was a report a couple of weeks ago that while teams were calling the Ravens weren’t necessarily inclined to trade the South Carolina product, so clearly they were blown away by the offer.

As for the Falcons, they’ve now got their guy to replace Hooper. A second-round pick is a hefty price to give up for a player who hasn’t topped 350 yards in two years, but Hurst has shown plenty of flashes and had the misfortune of getting stuck behind Andrews. Hurst is already 26 though thanks to a couple of years spent playing minor league baseball after high school, and he’s actually more than a year older than Hooper is.

Atlanta will definitely be questioned for the decision to let Hooper walk and then give up this pick for a less-proven and older player, but Hooper landed a massive deal they weren’t willing to match and they had to do something to address the position.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Ravens’ Hayden Hurst, Jimmy Smith

Given the relative dearth of quality tight ends expected to be available when free agency opens on March 18, plenty of pundits have connected the dots between TE-needy teams and the Ravens’ Hayden Hurst. After all, Hurst was a first-round pick in 2018, but he has been surpassed on the Baltimore depth chart by Mark Andrews, and the Ravens have another sturdy tight end in Nick Boyle who is lauded for his blocking abilities but who also has some skill as a receiver.

A report last week suggested that there is a “real chance” the Ravens will move Hurst, but Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic isn’t buying it. Zrebiec says the Ravens have indeed received periodic inquiries on Hurst since last year, but they are not looking to trade the former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand. After all, although Hurst’s counting stats don’t jump off the page, he has displayed all of the abilities that made him a top draft choice in the first place: soft hands, good route-running, and surprising speed. He posted a 30/349/2 slash in 2019, but a good number of those 30 catches were difficult and were in critical situations.

Plus, the Ravens’ offense relies heavily on its TEs, so they need a lot of talent at the position. Zrebiec says GM Eric DeCosta is always willing to listen, but Hurst is not being shopped.

As for CB Jimmy Smith, the last we heard on him is that he is likely to hit free agency. Zrebiec says Baltimore values its 2011 first-rounder and would like to bring him back on a short-term contract paying him roughly $7MM per year, but Smith — who had an AAV of a little over $10MM on his last contract — would prefer a longer deal for a little more money. Given his injury history, he may not get the term he’s looking for on the open market, but he may be able to top $7MM per season from another club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Hurst

Were Joe Burrow to be drafted by the Bengals, he wants the team to keep A.J. Green. The Bengals are believed to be zeroing in on the Heisman winner, who told NFL.com’s Jim Trotter he would like Green to be back in Cincinnati — if, in fact, the Bengals follow through on drafting the LSU quarterback (video link). The franchise tag window opens Thursday, and the Bengals have been linked to tagging Green. The nine-year veteran has voiced opposition to this, going into his age-32 season, but said he would play on the tag. However, Green also indicated he would likely miss extensive offseason workouts. An injury last summer shelved Green for all of 2019.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • The Ravens have seen 2018 third-round tight end Mark Andrews become Lamar Jackson‘s top target, leaving 2018 first-round tight end Hayden Hurst in a strange position. The former minor league baseball player-turned-South Carolina football prospect may be on the trade block, with Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweeting there is a “real chance” the Ravens trade Hurst. The former Pirates draftee played hurt as a rookie and caught 30 passes for 349 yards last season. Andrews caught 64 passes for a Ravens-most 852 yards in 2019. For what it’s worth, the tight end-needy Patriots have not contacted the Ravens about Hurst, Howe adds (on Twitter), but Hurst may be a name to monitor in Baltimore in the coming weeks.
  • The Browns will meet with Joe Schobert‘s agent at the Combine, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. After being so far apart on terms with ex-GM John Dorsey, Schobert is back in the picture to stay in Cleveland, Cabot adds. New GM Andrew Berry‘s hire has reopened the lines of communication with the Browns’ top tackler. Cleveland already has Christian Kirksey attached to a big contract, but the linebacker has struggled with injuries since signing that extension and may be a cap casualty.
  • David Njoku stands as player who likely would have been gone had Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens stayed in power, Cabot adds. But with Kevin Stefanski planning more two-tight end sets, the 2017 first-round pick looks likelier to stay in Cleveland. Having Berry back doesn’t hurt here, either, with the Sashi Brown-Berry-Paul DePodesta regime being in power when Njoku was drafted.
  • Although Dorsey upgraded the Browns’ talent level, his offensive line acquisitions did not pan out. The Browns will not re-sign Greg Robinson, and 2018 right tackle addition Chris Hubbard may be elsewhere next season as well. However, the Browns will likely spend big on at least one offensive lineman, Cabot adds. Jack Conklin, Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney profile as the top targets who are in line to reach free agency.

Trade Notes: Falcons, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Jets, Redskins, Giants, Eagles, Bills, Packers

Teams continue to ask about Austin Hooper, whose 526 receiving yards sit 11th in the NFL entering Week 8. However, the Falcons have spurned suitors who’ve called about the emerging tight end, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Hooper is in a contract year, but the Falcons believe they have a chance to re-sign him. The Falcons, though, are the team doing the contacting regarding Vic Beasley. Atlanta is shopping its former All-Pro defensive end, who is playing out a $12.8MM fifth-year option. Pass rushers are obviously valuable, but with Beasley’s play having fallen off since that 2016 breakthrough, the return might not be what the Falcons seek.

Here is the latest from the trade market:

  • The Redskins continue to respond with hard nos when asked about Trent Williams, but Breer adds Josh Norman‘s name has been floated around. With Norman having not lived up to the $15MM-AAV contract he signed in 2016, it would be hard to imagine the Redskins getting much value for the eighth-year cornerback.
  • A cornerback performing better continues to look likelier to stay put. Chris Harris does not expect to be traded, and Troy Renck of Denver7 notes the Broncos are not as motivated to deal their four-time Pro Bowler as they were to ship out Emmanuel Sanders. A second-round pick would likely be necessary here, per Breer. Considering the Broncos’ issues finding corners as of late, dealing Harris would create a massive offseason need in Denver.
  • The Bengals are 0-7, and A.J. Green continues to come up in trade rumors. But the old-school organization isn’t budging. Mike Brown has not signed off on a firesale, Breer adds, instead preferring to provide first-year HC Zac Taylor with a foundation. That project is not going well so far, with the veteran-laden team performing poorly. Cincinnati’s potential trade chips also include franchise sack leaders Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Neither appears to be a departure candidate. Tyler Eifert is a name Breer mentions could be dealt, but the tight end obviously has a significant injury history that would limit a return.
  • As for the expensive New York corners, Janoris Jenkins has generated more interest than Trumaine Johnson. The Giants have shopped Jenkins around some, per Breer, while Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes it would require “a miracle” for a team to take Johnson’s salary off the Jets‘ payroll. Jenkins is signed through 2020, with $5.37MM remaining in 2019 salary.
  • In addition to the Saints exploring receiver additions, the Bills, Eagles and Packers are as well, Breer notes. This could heat up the Robby Anderson market, but Breer adds Browns wideout Rashard Higgins has been discussed in advance of Tuesday’s deadline. The backup is in a contract year. However, Higgins has battled knee issues and has only played in one 2019 game.
  • With Mark Andrews having outproduced Hayden Hurst, the Ravens have received calls on their 2018 top pick. As of now, however, Hurst is not believed to be available, per Breer.

Ravens TE Hayden Hurst Ready For Training Camp

After a June 25 post on Rotoworld.com indicated that Ravens TE Hayden Hurst was questionable for training camp due to lingering hamstring issues, NBC Sports Washington published a post of its own relaying that message. Hurst succinctly tweeted that he is not, in fact, questionable for training camp, and NBC Sports Washington updated its previous post to say that Hurst will be ready to go when the team reconvenes next month.

That is obviously welcome news for Ravens fans. Much of the attention on the Ravens’ offseason has focused upon the departure of some key defensive players, the development of second-year QB Lamar Jackson, and whether the club will regret relying so heavily on two rookies (Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin) at wide receiver. But for all of those concerns, the club could boast the best TE corps in the league — which would obviously help Jackson’s progress and take some pressure off the rookie wideouts — if Hurst can remain healthy.

Still, that’s a big “if.” Last August, Hurst underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot that cost him the first quarter of the 2018 season, and he conceded during a recent interview on 105.7 The Fan that he never felt quite right the rest of the year. Hurst was Baltimore’s first of two first-round draft choices last year, but he was decidedly overshadowed by 2018 third-rounder Mark Andrews, who enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign and who is one of the main sources of optimism for the Ravens’ offense.

Hurst also tweaked his hamstring earlier this month and was held out of an OTA as a result — which gave rise to the apparently erroneous Rotoworld post — but he was a full participant in minicamp and expects to make a big jump in Year 2. In addition to being a smooth route runner with excellent hands, Hurst is a strong blocker, which will be essential to the Ravens’ run-heavy attack. He says he has added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, which should bolster his blocking abilities without detracting from his receiving talents.

In 2018, the former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand caught just 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore will be counting on a major improvement on those numbers in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Hundley, K. White, Hurst

Although many have assumed that the Packers will keep DeShone Kizer on their final roster — after all, Kizer is just one year removed from being a second-round draft pick, and Green Bay liked him enough to trade for him this offseason — Eric Baranczyk and Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com believe the Packers should keep Brett Hundley and cut Kizer if it comes to that. Baranczyk and Dougherty say the game has slowed more for Hundley than it has for Kizer, and the fact that Green Bay recently traded for Kizer should not be a factor in the team’s decision (after all, the Packers were likely to cut Damarious Randall anyway if Cleveland hadn’t been willing to deal Kizer for him). Ideally, the Packers would be able to swing a trade for one of Hundley or Kizer, but failing that, the Packers News scribes think GM Brian Gutekunst should stick with Hundley, who did not play very well in relief of the injured Aaron Rodgers last year.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the league’s North divisions:

  • Wide receivers Kevin White and Javon Wims both improved their chances of making the Bears‘ 53-man roster during Chicago’s preseason victory over Kansas City last night, as Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. White, of course, was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2015 draft — and GM Ryan Pace‘s first-ever draft choice — but injuries have almost completely wiped out the first three years of his NFL career. Wims was a seventh-round selection in this year’s draft, and Jahns believes the Bears should keep both players and six receivers overall, including Josh Bellamy.
  • Although Mackensie Alexander is battling an ankle injury, he is expected to start as the Vikings‘ slot corner — and “quarterback of the defense” in head coach Mike Zimmer‘s scheme — if he is healthy, as Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune reports. However, first-round rookie Mike Hughes — who is also battling an undisclosed injury — has been pushing for first-team reps, which is fairly remarkable when considering that he did not play in the slot in college. Hughes could overtake Alexander down the line, but in any case, Minnesota appears to be well-set at the position in the long-term. Alexander, a 2016 second-rounder, has made tremendous strides in his third summer with the club.
  • Though they had been enjoying an injury- and drama-free offseason, the Ravens have been hit hard with unwelcome news over the past few days. They lost rookie TE Hayden Hurst for three-to-four weeks, they saw star CB Jimmy Smith suspended for four games — though they at least knew that was coming — and now Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic has more bad news to report. Zrebiec tweets that emerging third-year defensive tackle Willie Henry will miss several weeks with a hernia, while promising rookie safety DeShon Elliott may be out for the season with a forearm injury. Zrebiec adds that the recent spate of bad luck will impact Baltimore’s initial roster construction, because while the team will likely carry Hurst and Henry on the 53-man roster until they are ready to return, the Ravens may need to keep an extra tight end and defensive lineman until that happens (Twitter link). Elliott, meanwhile, is an IR candidate. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports that Henry had surgery for his hernia and Hurst has had surgery for the stress fracture in his foot (Twitter links).
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson wants to keep six wide receivers on the team’s regular-season roster, as Steve Doerschuk of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins make up four of those six wideouts, while sixth-round rookie Damion Ratley also stands a good chance. That means veteran Jeff Janis and relative unknowns Derrick WilliesDa’Mari Scott, and C.J. Board could be fighting it out for the last spot.

Ravens TE Hayden Hurst To Miss 3-4 Weeks

Ravens rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is likely to miss three-to-four weeks while dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), who adds Hurst will undergo a procedure today to insert a screw in his foot.

Given his timeline, Hurst won’t be available for Baltimore when the regular season gets underway, and could potentially miss multiple games. But because he’s not expected to miss half the year or more, Hurst isn’t a realistic candidate to be placed on injured reserve/designated to return. Instead, the Ravens will simply hold Hurst on their roster until he recovers.

Hurst was one of two tight ends Baltimore selected in the 2018 draft, as the club added Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews in the third round after picking Hurst on Day 1. With Hurst out of the picture for the time being, Andrews figures to line up as the Ravens’ move tight end, while Nick Boyle is likely to see the most action as a blocker. Fourth-year pro Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, and Darren Waller are also candidates to stick on Baltimore’s roster.

Hurst, the 25th overall selection and one of two Ravens first-round picks (joining quarterback Lamar Jackson), posted 44 receptions, 559 yards, and two touchdowns during his junior season at South Carolina. A former minor league baseball player, Hurst will already be 25 years old when the 2018 campaign begins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign First-Round TE Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have agreed to sign rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). With that signing, the Ravens now have both of their entire draft class wrapped up. 

Hurst, a 6’5″, 250-pound prospect out of South Carolina, initially planned for a career in baseball after the Pirates drafted him in 2012 as a pitcher. After two years in the Gulf Coast League, he walked on with the Gamecocks in 2015. In 2016, he broke out with school records at the position in receptions and tight ends. He followed that up with a similarly strong campaign in 2017, positioning himself as one of the top tight ends in the 2018 class.

Hurst’s detour into baseball made him one of the oldest rookie’s in this year’s class and he’ll celebrate his 25th birthday before the start of the season. However, the Ravens believe the potential is still there. This year, he’ll serve as the Ravens’ top tight end, ahead of Nick Boyle and former second-round selection Maxx Williams.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Ravens’ draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.