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Panthers expected to sign TE Hayden Hurst to three-year, $21.75 million contract

Tight end Hayden Hurst is headed back to the NFC South.

NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo reported on Wednesday that the Carolina Panthers are expected to sign Hurst to a three-year, $21.75 million contract with $13 million fully guaranteed at signing, per sources informed of the situation.

The Panthers entered the offseason with a need at the tight end position, with Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble atop the depth chart. Hurst immediately leapfrogs both incumbents to become Carolina's top pass-catching option.

The Baltimore Ravens made the former minor-league baseball player a first-round draft pick in 2018, but he struggled to produce in two seasons. He was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. Hurst generated a career-high 571 yards on 56 catches with six touchdowns that season.

Signing in Cincinnati last offseason, Hurst became a key part of the Bengals' explosive offense. Taking advantage of coverage rolling toward Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Hurst corralled 52 catches for 414 yards and two scores. The 29-year-old proved he could be a reliable target in tight quarters and able to pick up yards after the catch.

Now he goes from a friendly offense with Joe Burrow and a plethora of playmakers to one in Carolina that is zeroing in on a rookie quarterback and lacking options. The trade of D.J. Moore to help acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last week leaves the Panthers with a gaping hole at wideout.

Carolina answered one question on offense by signing Hurst. What they do at WR and QB are the next big problems to solve.

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