National Football League
Hayden Hurst: I plan to be Panthers QB's 'best friend'
National Football League

Hayden Hurst: I plan to be Panthers QB's 'best friend'

Updated Apr. 5, 2023 7:23 p.m. ET

One way or another, the Carolina Panthers — who traded up for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft — will have a new starting quarterback next season. Whoever that player ends up being, tight end Hayden Hurst intends on being an easy target for the signal-caller.

In an interview with the Panthers' official team website on Tuesday, the free-agent signee explained how he'll help the team's 2023 quarterback.

"Tight ends are always a quarterback's best friend," Hurst said. "Especially [for] a rookie coming in, you want that reliable guy in the middle of the field, where your vision is. Obviously, you need the guys on the outside, too, to make your life easier. But if you can have that reliable guy where you know he's going to be somewhere within 10 yards or going down the middle of the field, and just put it up, that's why I came here."

Hurst spent last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, totaling 52 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He previously had two-year stints with the Atlanta Falcons (2020-21) and Baltimore Ravens (2018-19), who selected him with the No. 25 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.


Hurst signed a three-year, $21.8 million deal with the Panthers in March; he joins a tight end corps that includes Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble.

Hurst is one of a handful of free-agent signings who figure to have a key role in Carolina next season. Wide receivers Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, running back Miles Sanders, safety Vonn Bell and veteran quarterback Andy Dalton also signed with the Panthers, who are under the direction of new head coach Frank Reich.

As for who Hurst & Co. could be catching passes from, Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Florida's Anthony Richardson and Kentucky's Will Levis headline this year's rookie quarterback class. 

Carolina traded a 2023 first- and second-rounder (Nos. 9 and 61), a 2024 first-rounder, a 2025 second-rounder and wide receiver D.J. Moore — who averaged 1,040.2 receiving yards per season with the Panthers from 2018-22 — to the Chicago Bears for the No. 1 pick. 

The 2023 season will mark the fifth consecutive season that the Panthers have a new Week 1 starting quarterback (Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield).

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