I don’t even want to put this out into the universe, frankly, but there is a chance the Falcons might lose Austin Hooper this offseason. I expect they will truly make him the offseason’s biggest priority, and Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t lost many in-house free agents he has prized over the years, but the possibility at least exists.
In light of that, it’s worth looking at free agents available at tight end, should the Falcons need a stopgap option while a rookie (or maybe Jaeden Graham) gets up to speed. As it turns out, this class does have a handful of veteran, unrestricted free agents who could be solid one-year options, and a couple who might be worth multi-year accords.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to this point, but here are some free agent tight ends the Falcons should check in on if things go awry. We’ll pick this back up with some other important positions in the near future, including linebacker (where De’Vondre Campbell might depart) and guard (where the Falcons still haven’t settled on two starters).
2019 stats: 12 games, 55 receptions, 652 yards, 5 touchdowns
Henry would be the best tight end on the market if not for one nagging problem: He’s always hurt. The other problem is that the Chargers are probably going to toss a Brinks truck his way, but injury is still the big concern.
Henry has now played four years in the NFL. Austin Hooper has logged 59 games out of a possible 64, while Henry has just 41 of 64 over that same span. Despite that, Henry actually has more touchdowns and production that suggest he would’ve blown by the Falcons tight end statistically a long time ago if all things were equal.
That injury luck will have a small but tangible effect on his earnings, sure, but Henry is going to land a big-time contract from the Chargers or someone else, so it’s not like the Falcons would save much (if any) money going with him instead of Hooper. The durability Hooper has shown to this point makes him the safer choice here.
That said, if Henry somehow wound up in Atlanta, I would not complain.
2019 stats: 16 games, 43 receptions, 436 yards, 3 touchdowns
Eifert is basically the poor man’s Henry at this point in his career. He’s still a fine receiver, but years of injuries have robbed him off his once elite upside.
Encouragingly, though, he played in all 16 games this past season for the first time in his career and produced a solid season. He’ll be 30 next year and will likely sign a decent multi-year deal, but like Henry to an even greater extent, the injury concerns here will likely preclude the Falcons from tossing him a big contract even if they somehow lose Hooper.
Availability is an ability, after all.
2019 stats: 11 games, 31 receptions, 375 yards, 3 touchdowns
Who is Eric Ebron? Ultimately, he’s a productive but not spectacular tight end who had one insane outlier season where he scored 13 touchdowns, or just under half of his career total.
Remove that season and 2019 looks more or less in line with his career averages. Ebron will give you solid play as a receiver but isn’t regarded as a great blocker. He’d be a complementary piece to Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham if things go wrong, and not much else.
Who would you sign from this list if the Falcons need a tight end this year? If we’re missing a name you like, add it in the comments.