The tight end problem for the Chicago Bears may have just cleared up. With the NFL Scouting Combine in full swing, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the media the team planned on letting starting tight end Austin Hooper test the free agency market.
Hooper was a Pro Bowl selection in both 2018 and 2019, and the 25-year old has established himself as one of the best young tight ends in the game.
“This does not necessarily close the door on their time with the Falcons and we fully intend on negotiating with them in the free agency period as we work through our roster-building scenarios,” Dimitroff said. “Oftentimes you have to look at what the market is to determine whether you’re willing, as an organization, to step up and pay those players a certain amount of money.”
Hooper had 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns last year, and he would be a perfect fit in Chicago, where Matt Nagy would likely utilize him frequently, particularly considering the recent inconsistency surrounding Trey Burton. The question now is whether or not the Bears will be able to outbid other teams in need at the tight end position in order to attain Hooper’s services.
Austin Hooper’s Projected 2020 Contract: Can the Bears Afford It?
Per Spotrac, Hooper’s projected market value in 2020 is a yearly salary of approximately $9.9 million. Based on his recent performance coupled with the current tight end market, Spotrac has Hooper signing something similar to a five-year, 49.9 million contract next season. The Bears could absolutely swing that, especially after their recent roster moves.
The Bears just released both wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and starting corner Prince Amukamara, which freed up $13.5 million in cap space. Chicago now has about $27 million in cap space to work with, which is plenty to go after Hooper.
Whether the Bears go after Hooper or someone else will become clear soon, but GM Ryan Pace assured the media at the combine Tuesday the team plans to get better at the tight end position specifically.
“It’s an area of focus for us,” Pace said in reference to the tight end position, noting the team planned to address the position both in free agency and the draft.