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Hayden Hurst
Chicago Bears

Why Bears Should Target Hayden Hurst In Free Agency

  • Bryan Perez
  • February 17, 2022
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Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet has become quite the talking point within the team’s fan base. A quick search on Twitter reveals a faction of Bears fans who believe Kmet’s development is pacing consistent with some of the NFL’s top tight ends, while others think Kmet’s lack of juice and playmaking ability will limit his upside to being, essentially, the guy he already is. The truth with Kmet probably lies somewhere in between those two assessments. I think it’s fair to say Kmet isn’t going to emerge as a George Kittle or Travis Kelce star, but he’s already better than, say, Jimmy Graham; he’s a viable NFL starter. But will there be an opportunity for the Bears to improve, or at least diversify, the position this offseason? NFL free agency is less than one month away, and one tight end who will be an interesting option on the open market is Hayden Hurst. Hurst entered the league as a first-round pick (No. 25 overall) of the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. His career never got going in Baltimore, and after two underwhelming seasons that included being passed on the depth chart by Mark Andrews, Hurst was traded to the Falcons in a move that was supposed to rejuvenate his career. He responded by having a career-best season in 2020 that included six touchdowns; his arrow was pointing up. Then came the 2021 NFL Draft and the Falcons’ selection of Kyle Pitts. Hurst, once again, became an afterthought. Now, with unrestricted free agency on the horizon, Hurst presents as an intriguing option for teams looking to level up the athleticism and pass-catching ability in their tight end room. Hurst is likely headed to a one-year prove-it deal this offseason, which is perfect for a Bears team that still believes in Kmet but would be wise to add some competition for reps on the roster. If Kmet fails to take that next—big—step in year three and a player like Hurst emerges as the team’s best offensive weapon at tight end, a one-year deal would quickly turn into a multi-year extension. It’s the kind of win-win scenario that’s great for the player and the team. Suggesting Hurst would be a good target for the Bears in free agency isn’t an indictment against Kmet. Look at Chicago’s current tight end depth chart; they’re going to sign somebody. There’s a chance they’ll draft a tight end on day two of the 2022 NFL Draft as well. Don’t be offended, pro-Kmet fans. And don’t get too excited, anti-Kmeters. A move like this would be more about building a well-rounded roster than anything else. Sure, it’s fair to say Hurst is a first-round bust. And yes, he’ll turn 29 years old during training camp and there won’t suddenly be an All-Pro light switch that gets flipped. But for a Bears offense that will prioritize big money on wide receivers and offensive linemen, a bargain-free agent like Hurst makes a ton of sense.

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Bryan Perez