Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is set to hit the free-agent market this March. Hooper will be a free agent for the first time in his career and is coming off his most productive season. He finished the 2019 season with the third-most receiving yards on the team and tied for second in receiving touchdowns with Julio Jones, both hauling in six.
Austin Hooper Free Agent Profile
Hooper, a Stanford product, was a third-round pick in the 2016 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. The 25-year-old is coming off the best season of his career in which he posted career highs in nearly all major categories. He finished the 2019 campaign with 75 catches on 97 targets for 787 yards and six touchdowns.
Potential Landing Spots
Luckily for Hooper, this year’s free-agent tight end pool is not the strongest. Paired with his age and production, Hooper will be a highly sought-after target when the market opens. Here are three teams that should strongly pursue the young tight end.
The Falcons seem like the most obvious fit. Keeping Hooper would greatly benefit the organization and allow them to focus elsewhere. Matt Ryan looked Hooper’s way often in 2019, and as the season went on he carved out a larger role in the offense for himself. The only problem here for Atlanta is money. The Falcons have the fourth lowest amount of available cap space. However, the Falcons do have the opportunity to utilize the franchise tag if they choose. Finding a way to re-sign Hooper would be a big boost to a young Atlanta offense.
The Jacksonville Jaguars enters free agency with even less cap space than Atlanta. However, there are several cuts that seem inevitable that will free up plenty of money. The Jaguars have struggled to find consistent tight end play since the release of Marcedes Lewis before the 2018 season. Adding a strong presence at tight end would bring an immediate boost to a poor Jacksonville offense. Hooper’s strong pass-catching ability would also provide a boost to the red zone offense.
New England Patriots
One of the more intriguing landing spots for Hooper would be the New England Patriots. The Patriots had success at the tight end spot throughout the decade with Rob Gronkowski. In their first season after Gronkowski’s retirement, the Pats struggled to find success at the tight end spot and the offense, in turn, struggled to put up points. The Patriots’ first priority in free agency will likely be Tom Brady, but adding pass-catching weapons will also be a priority. Having a tight end who can stretch the field has been a staple in New England, and the lack of offensive production this past season proves that.
Hooper will have plenty of options once free agency opens on March 18th. The young tight end has shown plenty of talent, recording better stats each year of his career. Atlanta will be hard to leave given the chemistry he developed with Matt Ryan, but the chance to land a massive contract may outweigh what the Falcons can offer.
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