We have talked about the New England Patriots’ need to upgrade their tight end position this offseason numerous times already here at Pats Pulpit over the last few weeks — and it sure seems like the team shares our perspective. Not only are the Patriots expected to make a run at some of the top options available at the position in free agency and also add to it through the draft in late April, they appear to be exploring the trade market as well.
According to a report by Eugene Frenette of radio 97.3 The Game in Jacksonville, the Patriots are one of two teams — the other being the Jacksonville Jaguars — who are currently exploring a pre-draft trade for Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. Whether or not such a transaction actually happens, however, will reportedly depend on the kind of draft picks (or other assets) the two teams might be willing to part with in return for the 26-year-old.
Hurst certainly is an intriguing target, after all. A first-round draft pick by the Ravens in 2018, he saw only rotational action during his first two years in the NFL: serving as the team’s number two at the position behind Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, he was used regularly as a blocker but only occasionally in the passing game — all in all, Hurst caught just 47 passes for a combined 565 yards and four touchdowns during the first 30 games of his pro career.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the Patriots’ interest in Hurst actually turns out to be serious, the team taking a look at tight end help beyond the traditional means of acquiring talent — free agency and the draft — should not come as a surprise. While New England has comparatively limited draft capital after using a second-round pick to acquire wide receiver Mohamed Sanu via trade from the Atlanta Falcons at last year’s trade deadline, exploring all possible avenues to add talent to a position of need is a smart thing to do.
The Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick have of course never shied away from making trades — from using high draft selections to bring proven commodities such as Sanu or fellow wide receiver Brandin Cooks on board, to going after castoffs or players not living up to expectations. Just two years into his career with the Ravens, Hurst is in danger of falling into that latter category. New England seeing this as an opportunity would not be out of character.
Sure, expecting Hurst to be the immediate solution to the team’s woes at his position would be naive given his previous two years in Baltimore. However, if the Patriots feel good about his potential in their system in combination with the cost of investment — likely a mid-round selection at best given Hurst’s limited passing game production in 2018 and 2019 — he could very well become one of the pieces of the puzzle that is New England’s new-look tight end group.