3. Hayden Hurst
Bengals fans really wanted the team to re-sign Hurst but it wasn't meant to be. After spending two years with the Ravens, Hurst was traded to the Falcons and put together the best season of his career in 2020. He was outshined by Kyle Pitts in 2021 and that led to the Bengals scooping Hurst up in free agency last year.
Hurst performed well during what would be his only year in Cincinnati, tallying 52 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season. The production was a welcomed sight for Bengals fans but the former South Carolina Gamecock ended up inking a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers worth $21.75 million.
The Bengals simply were not going to pay Hurst that kind of money, not with Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson all waiting to receive extensions. Cincinnati let C.J. Uzomah walk the year before and he and Hurst both went on to sign similar deals right before hitting 30.
Another reason letting Hurst go made sense was that the Bengals' offense isn't one that needs a pass-catching tight end to be prolific. They have Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja'Marr Chase as their top three weapons so having a tight end out there isn't a necessity.
Cincinnati replaced Hurst with former second-round pick Irv Smith Jr., who played for the Vikings for four years. He struggled to stay healthy but the Bengals know that losing their starting tight end isn't going to tank their offense and that's why they were okay letting Hurst walk.