We have been watching the Austin Hooper saga since the offseason. Hooper turned into one of the league’s most consistent tight ends and an important part of Atlanta’s offense. Despite limited cap space, most believed the Falcons would make sure a deal would happen.
Then came concerning statements from Arthur Blank. Then projections that Hooper will reset the tight end market. Then, finally, the team brass saying Hooper, and others, will become free agents.
Players rarely return to their team after leaving for free agency, especially not when they are the top free agent at that position. With the Falcons deep in cap hell, nearly any team can outspend the Falcons and give Hooper the premium he has earned.
Three teams have already entered to do exactly that, per reports.
The Bears want to take a big swing in free agency, and they intend to make a run at two-time Pro Bowl TE Austin Hooper--https://t.co/IvBGjOa5Il— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) February 27, 2020
The Bears are not a preferred destination, but Hooper could turn into Mitch Trubisky’s most-trusted receiver. While PFF highlighted the fact that Hooper was not asked to do a lot in Atlanta, this may work out well for a Bears offense lacking consistency. Hooper is not a Travis Kelce deep threat but few others are. If they want to help Trubisky, Hooper can be that elite intermediate option.
The Redskins are one of the teams that have a strong interest in tight end Austin Hooper, a source tells me. Falcons letting Hooper reach free agency. Two-time Pro Bowler, at age 25 and ascending, sure to be an attractive option for teams.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) February 28, 2020
This is interesting as new coach Ron Rivera has always relied on a top tight end while in Carolina and Washington has about $60 million in available cap space. Dwayne Haskins could use a reliable target with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis gone. Again, Hooper can be a reliable target that keeps the offense moving.
A couple of takeaways from the combine:— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) February 28, 2020
The Packers are intent on adding on a pass-catcher both in free agency and the draft and plan to make a run at Falcons free-agent TE Austin Hooper.
Also, they were scheduled to meet with Aaron Jones' agent, who... https://t.co/wC1y9e7ICo
Former Falcons quarterback coach Matt LaFleur is stepping with interest in Hooper. Jimmy Graham has been a bust in Green Bay and LaFleur has some experience with Hooper while in Atlanta. Considering the importance of the tight end in that offensive scheme, they are likely to be strong competitors for Hooper.
As for the Falcons, the reported interest should only confirm that Hooper will not return. Both teams have a much stronger need for an offensive weapon and have more spending money to get a deal done. No way Atlanta can come close to matching what these teams are able to offer.