Hayden Hurst was the third leading receiver for the Atlanta Falcons last season, but his option year on his contract was declined by for the 2022 season making him a free agent after this season.
In a walk year, does Hurst have something to prove after the Falcons also selected uber talented tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick in the draft?
Head coach Arthur Smith continues to heap praise on Hurst.
“Hayden’s done a nice job day to day,” said Smith. “Hayden is a valuable member of this football team, and we have high expectations for Hayden. He knows that. There’s been direct communications. Very pleased with Hayden’s maturity and what he’s brought day in and day out here so far.”
Hurst was acquired before the start of last season for a second round draft pick from the Baltimore Ravens. He went on to catch 56 passes for 571 yards and was second on the team with six touchdowns.
He was also named the Alan Page Community Award winner in the NFL for his work with mental health and depression.
Hurst was due a massive increase on his base salary from his rookie contract with a jump from roughly $2M in 2021 to $5.4M in 2022. By declining the option, he’ll be a free agent in 2022, so it’s not out of the question that he could return to Atlanta.
Arthur Smith uses a lot of two tight end sets in his offense, so despite the arrival of Pitts, Hurst will get his opportunities have a big year.
Hurst is in an interesting situation, because his rookie contract will end after this season, when he’ll turn 28 years old. He spent two years in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization before walking on at South Carolina.
Being that his next contract could be his last, don’t expect any home-team discounts next season if the Falcons wish to bring him back.