Rumor: Cleveland Browns linked to tight end Hayden Hurst

Hayden Hurst, Cincinnati Bengals.
Hayden Hurst, Cincinnati Bengals. / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly said to be on the market for a tight end to have to go with David Njoku, and rumored target Hayden Hurst would be a sensible free-agent add.

Whether or not one was in favor of the Cleveland Browns shelling out for David Njoku last offseason, he's a talented player that should give Deshaun Watson a quality tight end target looking onward. Watson obviously has a whole heck of a lot to prove from here, and didn't appear sharp in his play last season, and it remains to be seen if the experiment with him will pay dividends.

Watson has had his share of success on the field, though, and for Cleveland to maximize him, surrounding him with playmakers and reliable pass-catchers is crucial. The front office knows what they have in Amari Cooper, and circling back, Njoku should figure to be a significant part of the passing attack moving forward after having the best year of his career.

Last season, with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for most of the season, Njoku had splits of 58 catches for 628 yards and four receiving touchdowns in 14 games.

There wasn't a full season of work for the oft-injured Njoku, but he was surehanded for the most part and had a career-best catch rate of 72.5 percent, which provided plenty of reasoning to be optimistic about his outlook with Watson at the helm in coming years. Njoku has been a much-improved blocker as well, which is also a plus.

It's reasonable for the Browns to be looking to shore up the tight end room aside from Njoku, who will be entering his age-27 season, though. While Harrison Bryant is alright, he's a player that could seemingly not be back with Cleveland after an uneven three seasons, and it's understandable for the team to upgrade the No. 2 tight end spot.

On that front, it was recently reported by Jared Mueller of SB Nation's Dawgs By Nature that Hayden Hurst and Foster Moreau of the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders are "two names" of tight ends the Browns are targeting this offseason/free agency period.

Hurst is a player that could definitely provide some stability for that backup tight end spot, and while it's uncertain as to what his usage might be, if healthy, Hurst has been a solid complementary pass catcher.

Originally a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, Hurst had a resurgent season last year with Cincinnati after previously spending two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He had 52 catches for 414 yards, to go with two receiving touchdowns in 2022, and started in each of his 13 appearances. He posted a catch rate of 76.5 percent with the Bengals last year, for what it's worth.

The 29-year-old Hurst wouldn't realistically project to have nearly the same usage this upcoming season with Cleveland as he had with Cincinnati. Granted, he could seemingly be gunning for a consistent starting role this upcoming season once again, also, but it's not necessarily far-fetched for the Browns to still be looking into him as a target to bolster their tight end room.

As for the potential compensation for Hurst, who did help himself after a productive last season, Spotrac currently has projected him to land a free agency deal for one year and roughly $6.8 million. It'll be intriguing to see how the Browns look to address tight end this offseason, and if Hurst ends up with his third AFC North team.

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