Other Options for Falcons if Austin Hooper Walks

Austin Hooper

getty Austin Hooper #81 of the Atlanta Falcons.

March 16th is right around the corner and the Falcons still seem to have not locked down one of the most wanted free-agent tight ends, Austin Hooper.

Hooper did mention he would like to stay with Atlanta back in January, but if the unrestricted free agent gets a better deal, he’s most likely out of the “A”. And it looks like a lot of teams in the 2020 NFL Draft could be looking to Hooper as their first pick.

The Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement leaving the backups for Tom Brady who were unable to consistently perform for Tom. Then there’s there Panthers’ Greg Olsen who won’t be back next season, at least under that franchise. These are examples of just two pairs of NFL hierarchy eyes on Hooper right now looking for a tight end.

Hooper’s Scouting Report

Position: Tight end

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 255 lbs

Career Stats: 13 games; 93 targets, 75 receptions, 787 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns

Hooper was a third-round pick by the Falcons in the 2016 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he showed off how versatile he was both as a receiver and a blocker and consistently improved each of the four years of his contract. 2019 marked his best season statistically where he set new records in receptions, yards, and touchdowns as a Falcon. And he became Atlanta’s number one option at tight end and a top-three receiver overall.

Hooper has definitely been a key player for the Falcons, however, if Hooper does decide to fancy himself elsewhere, the Falcons will be just fine.

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Other Options to Consider

The Falcons are being conscious as to where they will be spending their salary cap this season since the budget is low, but they’re not afraid to let the good ones walk. Rumors have it Freeman will be released this offseason due to the cap, not to mention his worst season yet in 2019.

Some fresh meat to consider coming into this years’ NFL Draft includes plenty of tight end options: Thaddeus Moss from LSU, Colby Parkinson from Stanford or Hunter Bryant from Washington.

As far as NFL contracts coming to an end, LA Chargers’ Hunter Henry is a good place to look. Henry is another catch at tight end this offseason that will be available. He put up some of his highest career numbers this past season in just 12 games with 55 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns. The downfall is Henry has been prone to injury, but he might be worth it.

Tyler Eifert of Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks’ Jacob Hollister would also make good choices. Eifert and Hollister have both proven to be valuable at their positions this past season and will perform when needed. The Bears also seem to be shopping for Eifert (if not Hooper), so that will need to be an early decision-maker.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons and Hooper can come to a negotiation soon. But, between several options at tight end available and Ben Steele’s promotion to tight ends coach, who has been one of the reason’s Hooper’s success, the Falcons shouldn’t have any problems handing over the tight end roll to a newbie.

READ NEXT: Falcons a Perfect Fit For LSU Standout in 2020 NFL Draft

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