The team brass may be suggesting they are in a “good spot” with free agency quickly approaching, however, they are looking at losing multiple starters without the spending cash to replace them with comparable talent.
As mentioned the last few weeks, losing Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper will hurt. The Falcons traded Mohamed Sanu in 2019 and will now lose Hooper in free agency. Neither player is irreplaceable, but Thomas Dimitroff will have his work cut out for him to replace both with under $5 million in cap space.
Per Mike Silver of NFL Network, the Falcons missed out on the chance to extend Hooper for cheap during last season. Silver said Hooper expected to get an offer but that contract never came.
As free agency approaches, TE Austin Hooper is poised to reset the market after four productive years with the Falcons... pic.twitter.com/bp1M4ugaR9— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 11, 2020
They certainly could have done that early in the season and even late in the season. I spent some time with Austin Hooper yesterday. He said back in October, November he expected to be a Falcon for life. He was kind of getting some signals from the organization that they were going to offer him an extension.
Hooper sounded ready to stick with the Falcons. It is not surprising he wanted to stay as he has gained a Tony Gonzalez-esque relationship with Matt Ryan. The duo famously work out together every offseason and the result has made Hooper one of the most productive tight ends in the league.
It is a huge missed opportunity for the Falcons who instead invested money in players like Vic Beasley, James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, and Ty Sambrailo. Even more of a missed opportunity is Hooper’s price last year.
In retrospect, they could have gotten it done for far less than he is very likely to command in free agency.
The Falcons obviously cannot afford to pay Hooper north of $10 million per year, but “far less” could have made him affordable. It is a major miss by the front office to fail to do so much as find out Hooper’s contract expectations. Now Hooper is certainly leaving Atlanta and the Falcons have no clear replacement.