Could Austin Hooper be on his way to the New England Patriots? At least one NFL analyst thinks it’s an “ideal fit.”
According to ESPN’s Matt Bowen, the soon-to-be free agent would fit with the Patriots. Hooper is coming off of consecutive Pro Bowl years with the Atlanta Falcons and would fill New England’s void at tight end.
“At age 25, with the route-running chops to win in the middle of the field, Hooper will have plenty of options on the open market,” Bowen wrote. “In 13 games last season, he caught 75 passes for 787 yards and five scores. An ideal fit for Hooper in 2020? Give me the Patriots.”
Patriots Need New Starting Tight End
As Bowen mentions, Hooper is young at 25 years of age. Despite being limited to just 13 games last season, he ranked fifth in receptions and sixth in receiving yards among all tight ends.
The Patriots have a desperate need for a tight end. Following Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement last offseason, New England struggled to replace the former All-Pro tight end. The Patriots went through the likes of 39-year-old Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo last season as starting tight ends.
With Watson likely to retire and LaCosse and Izzo combining for just 19 receptions and 245 yards with two touchdowns last season, the Patriots have to make it their mission to find a reliable tight end.
Hooper would fill that void.
Tom Brady Values Personnel More Than Money
Speaking of Hooper, the addition of a Pro Bowl tight end might just entice Tom Brady to return. According to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston‘s most recent report, Brady and the Patriots are more concerned about the 2020 offensive personnel rather than the veteran QB’s salary.
Curran also notes that “tight end is a position of emphasis.”
Reiterating what I’ve previously reported but have had again mentioned, the “Patriots are willing to go north of $30M” report wasn’t something either side loved.
For the Patriots, it created a false expectation before any negotiations began and, from the perspective of the Brady camp, it missed the point of what his main issue is.
Also, while negotiations haven’t begun, the team is plotting a course for adding players that fit Brady’s strengths to help on offense whether through free agency or trade. Tight end is a position of emphasis.
Considering Julian Edelman was Brady’s lone reliable weapon in the wide receiver and tight end department last season, this isn’t exactly surprising. Running back James White ranked second on the team in receptions with 72 receptions.
To illustrate how much the Patriots lacked in the receiver department, Phillip Dorsett somehow ranked second among receivers and tight ends on the team in receptions with just 29 total. Yes, this is the same Dorsett who started just four games on the season and had started just 11 career games in his four seasons prior to playing in New England.
If Brady is to return, it’s clear the Patriots need an upgrade in weapons. New England has recently been linked to free agents A.J. Green and Hunter Henry.