Is one of the better tight ends in the league about to head North for the winter? According to a report by Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Bears are about to make a huge play for the best tight end available in free agency, Austin Hooper of the Atlanta Falcons. Hooper has made two Pro Bowls in four seasons with the Falcons, and the team will be letting him hit the open market to test free agency. Lieser thinks the Bears will take a ‘big swing’ at Hooper.
How big of a swing the team takes remains a question mark, but the Bears’ need for stability at the tight end position is one of the Chicago’s most glaring issues. Snagging Hooper would automatically give them a huge threat at the position.
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Bears Set to Go After Hooper Next Month in Free Agency
According to Lieser, “A source said they [the Bears] are planning to make a run” at Hooper in March “when free agency opens.”
Hooper is 25 years old (he will be 26 next November) and he has a huge upside, but he won’t come cheap.
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.
Chicago 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 enough to go after Hooper — especially if the new CBA agreement should pass.
Hooper himself seemed to fuel rumors he was done in Atlanta when he posted a cryptic photo of himself waving goodbye to Falcons fans on his Instagram account.
The post had no caption, but it came after Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff told the media during combine week he planned on letting Hooper test the market, so the timing seems more than a wee bit coincidental. It looks as though the market for Hooper is already heating up.
In four seasons with the Falcons, Hooper has caught 214 passes for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Bears could use someone of his ilk, as their starting tight end, Trey Burton, has been riddled with injuries in his two seasons with the team, and former second-round pick Adam Shaheen has been a bust and is likely to be released. In 2019, all of the Bears’ tight ends combined had 36 catches, 416 yards receiving and just 2 touchdowns.
Hooper’s 2019 season alone is better than the Bears were as a unit at the position last year. He had 75 catches for 787 yards and six scores.