Bengals free agency: What to do if Hayden Hurst departs?

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) hurdles Buffalo Bills safety Jaquan Johnson (4) after
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) hurdles Buffalo Bills safety Jaquan Johnson (4) after / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The Cincinnati Bengals might be in the exact same spot they found themselves in a year ago when it comes to their starting tight end position. C.J. Uzomah signed a three-year deal with the Jets forcing the Bengals to find another option at the position. Hayden Hurst was signed to a one-year deal and put together one of the best years of his career.

With Hurst impressing in Cincinnati, other teams might take notice of what he did and be interested in signing him to a nice contract. PFF projects him to earn a three-year deal worth $28.5 million, which is more than what the Jets paid Uzomah. Both Hurst and Uzomah were 29 at the time when this situation arose.

While Hurst has been vocal about enjoying his time in the Bengals organization, if a team is willing to pay him that kind of money, it might be hard for him to turn it down. If that happens and he does depart in the offseason, what will the Bengals do?

How will the Bengals replace Hayden Hurst if he leaves?

There are a few different options here.

The first is that the team could do what they did a year ago and sign a more affordable tight end in free agency to be their starter. They don't necessarily need their tight end to be a pass-catching star with all of the weapons they have in town so this could mean re-signing Drew Sample might be in the cards. He had a nice year in 2020 when Uzomah went down and missed most of the season.

Some other names that wouldn't break the bank but could be serviceable would be Dan Arnold, Geoff Swaim, and former Bengal Tyler Kroft.

Another option could be to turn to the draft and find a starting-caliber option there. These would include names such as Michael Mayer, Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid, and Darnell Washington. While I'm fine with the team drafting a tight end, it's a hard position to immediately step up and make an impact so the Bengals would want to have another option in line to start in case that guy isn't ready.

Next. Predicting Who Stays and Who Goes in Free Agency. dark

It'd be great to have Hayden Hurst back in Cincinnati but if he doesn't return, these options are what the team will have to consider.