Whoever plays quarterback for the Panthers is going to have a veteran tight end to work with this season. Carolina is expected to sign former Bengals' tight end Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Media.
A former first-round pick, Hurst broke into the NFL with the Ravens before spending two seasons in Atlanta and the 2022 season with the Bengals. In 2022, his first season in Atlanta, Hurst set career highs with 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns. During his only season in Cincinnati, Hurst caught 52 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns in 13 regular season games. He caught an additional 13 passes for 141 yards and a score in the Bengals' three playoff games.
A year after catching passes from Joe Burrow, Hurst will likely be catching passes from a rookie quarterback in 2023. The Panthers are expected to use the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft on either Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State standout C.J. Stroud.
Hurst is expected to join a Panthers' skill group that also includes wideouts Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. and running back Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard's running late in the 2022 season played a big role in the Panthers winning five of their last eight games to finish with a 7-10 record.
The Bengals may elect to replace Hurst with a rookie in next month's draft. Among the Bengals' possible options in the draft include Michael Mayer, who grew up in nearby Park Hills, Kentucky before enjoying a successful college career at Notre Dame. Mayer is expected to be a first-round pick.