Hayden Hurst won't be returning to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2023. The former first-round pick signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers and no one can blame the guy for taking that contract after the way his career started off.
With the departure, however, the Bengals find themselves in the same situation they were in this time last year. They need to find a new starting tight end and if they turn to free agency to do so, Foster Moreau is the guy they need to hone in on.
Moreau, a fourth-round pick by the Raiders in 2019, is coming off his best season in the pros. The former LSU Tiger (connections to Joe Burrow...) had 33 catches for 420 yards and two touchdowns and got to fill in for Darren Waller while he was injured.
When comparing Hurst's and Moreau's numbers, Hurst had more receptions with 52 but Moreau had more yards. Both guys had two touchdowns during the regular season.
Bengals need to target Foster Moreau now that Hayden Hurst is gone
Cincinnati might end up using a draft pick to find their next starting tight end but Moreau is a player in a similar boat to that of Hurst a season ago. He was in Waller's shadow during his time in Las Vegas while Hurst was in first-round pick Kyle Pitts' shadow during the 2021 season.
It's now been proven in back-to-back seasons that tight ends can benefit by playing with Joe Burrow. C.J. Uzomah got the bag after his 2021 season with Burrow and Hurst followed suit in 2022.
Spotrac actually projects that Moreau is due for a much bigger contract than either of those received before their big seasons, however, listing his market value at four years, $36.1 million with an annual salary of $9 million. That is going to be way too much money for the Bengals to spend on a tight end when they can get one in the draft for much cheaper.
PFF's contract projection is more reasonable at three years, $21 million with an annual salary of $7 million. This is much more likely for the Bengals to ink him to but with the market playing out how it has been, Moreau could expect more from whoever wants to sign him.
Still, if the Bengals want to find the perfect replacement for Hurst, there might not be a better option in free agency than Foster Moreau.