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Could signing TE Hayden Hurst help Rams unlock 12 personnel usage?

Heavier personnel packages helped effectiveness in run game. It’s time for LA to double down at TE.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Rams are in dire need of bonafide pass catching and playmaking threats this offseason. The team’s big free agent signing from last offseason, Allen Robinson, failed to stretch the field in a meaningful way. Most of Tyler Higbee’s work is done on short completions and in the screen game. LA needs anyone not named Cooper Kupp to step up, but last year that never really seemed to happen.

So what better options are there in free agency than a cost-effective veteran and former first round pick?

Hayden Hurst could be a savvy signing by general manager Les Snead. Having a second capable tight end could allow Sean McVay leverage 12 personnel packages (1 RB, 2 TE’s) more than the team ever has since the head coach’s arrival in 2017. Multiple tight end packages were McVay’s bread and butter during his time as offensive coordinator in Washington, but his offenses in Los Angeles have since utilized 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) the vast majority of the time.

Cam Akers’ impressive finish to the 2022 campaign was largely fueled by the Rams leaning on 2 TE sets in a way they traditionally haven’t; however, trusting Brycen Hopkins with a significant role next season could prove ill-advised. Los Angeles needs to add depth at the tight end position regardless of whether they plan to deploy 11 or 12 personnel - Higbee is getting long in the tooth and Hopkins is slated to hit unrestricted free agency in 2024.

The Cincinnati Bengals signed Hurst to a one-year bargain deal last spring, paying him just $3.5M for the 2022 season. In 13 regular season games the veteran accumulated 52 catches on 68 targets for 414 yards and 2 TD’s. He also notched another 13 receptions for 141 yards and a score during the team’s three playoff games.

It’s unlikely that Hurst’s price tag increased drastically with that level of production, but seeing the tight end produce at a dependable level in a similar offensive scheme should pique the Rams’ interest. Even if the team can lure him away from Cincinnati and Joe Burrow for $4M annually, that is still less than the contract kicker Matt Gay should command in free agency.

The Rams expect to return to contention in 2023. While their first pick borders on the first and second round, the tight end position is one that you historically don’t see immediate dividends from. If McVay and the Rams want to improve here, a reliable veteran is the route they should take.

And Hayden Hurst could be an important piece in revamping the Rams’ offense and helping the team compete for another championship next season.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports