The tight end position has become increasingly important in the NFL, a centre piece of innovation and creativity used by offensive minds across the league to try and gain another advantage over their defensive counterparts. As a result, teams are looking more and more to upgrade at the position and with free agency looming, we take a look at one of the names set to garner huge interest on the market: Austin Hooper.
Hooper had a strong ’19 season in Atlanta, racking up 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Had it not being for injury causing him to miss three games, he would’ve undoubtedly been knocking on the door of 100 catches and 1000 yards. Here are three teams who could benefit greatly from adding him to their ranks.
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers addressed defence in free agency last year and the additions of Za’Darius And Preston Smith bore tremendous fruits for them. As the season progressed though it became clear that Aaron Rodgers and the offence needs help.
Hooper would represent a significant upgrade at tight end over the underwhelming Jimmy Graham, offering Rodgers a threat over the middle of the field as an intermediate target. The Packers have big hopes for last years draftee Jace Sternberger, who has shown field-stretching ability but still needs time to develop – Hooper would give the Packers a well rounded option at tight end while that continues to happen.
Hooper caught 75 of 93 targets last season whilst being credited with only one drop. His price may limit their ability to make a run at a high priced wideout in free agency, but the draft class at WR is stacked – allowing GM Brian Gutekunst to look there in the early rounds.
2. New England Patriots
We don’t yet know whether or not Tom Brady will return to Foxboro next season, but regardless of that it is clear that the Patriots need to upgrade the offensive side of the ball. Even with Brady at the helm last season, the Patriots offence looked limp when it came to the postseason and a lot of that was put down to the absence of Rob Gronkowski.
Hooper is no Gronk, but he would represent a large upgrade on what they had last year and with $43 million in cap space, the Pats have more than enough to get him signed up. The Pats can not afford to go into next season with Matt LaCosse atop their depth chart at tight end and with the group looking thin on the ground in this upcoming draft, you can expect the Patriots to look to free agency to make a splash at the position.
3. Washington Redskins
They say a young quarterback’s best friend is a reliable tight end, a big man with safe hands over the middle of the field. Hooper would certainly be that for Dwayne Haskins and the Redskins, who have seen the retirement of Vernon Davis and the release of oft-injured Jordan Reed leave their tight end ranks severely depleted this offseason.
New ‘Skins coach Ron Rivera had interest in Greg Olsen before he signed with Seattle, so they still have a void at the position and it would make sense for them to pivot to Hooper to help their offence. Scott Turner is their OC and if he is anything like his father Norv, who repeatedly placed importance on tight ends, he would love to have Hooper at his disposal.
Spotrac estimates Hoopers value as somewhere between $9-11 million, a price that could prove off putting for some teams depending on their salary cap situations. But given the increased use of tight ends and their importance to offences around the league, Hooper has a chance to reset the market at the position. In addition to the three teams mentioned here, Hooper is set to garner an awful lot of interest once free agency officially begins next week.