The Ravens traded tight end Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round NFL draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, acquiring a second- and fifth-round pick in exchange for their top selection from a foundational 2018 class.
Hurst, taken before quarterback Lamar Jackson two years ago at No. 25 overall, was an often overlooked contributor to the NFL’s most complete tight end trio last season. But with the success of Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews, a third-round pick in 2018, and Nick Boyle, one of the position’s top blockers, the former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect and South Carolina star became expendable. He’s the first Ravens first-round pick to be traded after two seasons.
A day after agreeing in principle to trade a fifth-round pick for Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, the Ravens added Day 2 draft capital. General manager Eric DeCosta now has three of the top 60 picks in the draft: the Ravens’ first- and second-round selections, and the Falcons’ No. 55 overall slot.
To complete the trade, the Ravens reportedly parted with their compensatory fourth-round pick and sent the Falcons’ fifth-round pick to Jacksonville as part of the deal for Campbell. DeCosta now has nine picks in April’s draft, including five in the first three rounds.
In two seasons in Baltimore, Hurst had 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns, his production limited by injury and a crowded depth chart. After foot surgery hampered him as a rookie, he caught 30 of 39 targets for 349 yards last season, flashing soft hands and scoring on a crucial 61-yard catch-and-run in a win over the Buffalo Bills.
Hurst finished third on the team in receiving, behind Andrews (852 yards) and ahead of Boyle (321). According to Pro Football Focus, he was the NFL's No. 14 tight end last season — third best on both the Ravens and among second-year players at the position.
“Finally have a second to take a breath and soak this in,” Hurst tweeted Monday night. “Thanks to the @ravens for brining [sic] me in and giving me a chance in the league. Baltimore was always great to me and I’ve got love for the city, always. This is what we sign up for.”
With the trade and the retirement of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, the Ravens could be headed for a more conventional offensive approach in 2020. Led last season by a three-headed monster at tight end, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, the team pounded away at run defenses, then capitalized on play-action.
The Ravens broke the NFL’s single-season team rushing record, and they weren’t afraid to do it by going heavy. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Ravens had the fifth-most plays last season with “13” personnel (one running back, three tight ends, one wide receiver). It proved a formidable alignment: On 35 pass attempts, Ravens quarterbacks posted a 126.2 passer rating. On 30 rush attempts, the team averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
Under coordinator Greg Roman, the offense won’t soon abandon its smashmouth ideology. But with the rapid improvements of Jackson as a passer, the expected development of the team’s wide receiver corps, and league trends favoring more pass-happy attacks, the Ravens could enter the season as a moving target.
In Atlanta, Hurst will have the larger role he’s coveted. He’ll also have the pressure of replacing Austin Hooper, who on Monday reportedly agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, the league’s biggest contract for a tight end.
Hurst, who gave up on a promising baseball career after he struggled to overcome the yips, is under Atlanta’s contract through 2021, when he’ll be entering his age-28 season.