Falcons still have room for tight end Hayden Hurst

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Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst caught a career-best 56 passes for 571 yards in 2020. Hurst will be a free agent after 2021 season

While the Falcons elected not to pick up tight end Hayden Hurst’s $5.4 million fifth-year option, tight ends coach Justin Peelle believes there will be plenty of playing time behind prized rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.

Pitts was selected with the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft.

“If you look at coach (Arthur) Smith’s past, he’s a multiple tight end, multiple personnel-grouping (guy),” Peelle said. “Both of those guys, I’m fairly confident, will be on the field at the same time.”

Last season with the Titans, Smith had four tight ends play more than 200 snaps. Smith’s most frequent formation (35%) was to use 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends).

Peelle, who has been coaching tight ends since he retired from playing in 2013, studied Hurst when he was draft-eligible in 2018.

“Hayden has gotten better,” Peelle said. “You can see his growth as well, getting better, constantly getting better. He’s a guy that plays with tremendous effort. It’s important to him, very unselfish. … You can see him just getting better as well.”

Hurst was drafted in the first round by the Ravens. He was traded to the Falcons before last season for a second-round pick. He caught a career-high 56 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns.

“He’s doing better at the line of scrimmage,” Peelle said. “I think his routes are clear. I know that’s very vague. He’s moving a little more fluid on the football field. Overall, you could see that he’s playing with a little bit more confidence.

“He had only played the position for a couple of years, if I’m not mistaken, coming out of South Carolina. He was a baseball player. Just that natural growth from getting more reps at the position.”