Hooper quickly found a home with the Titans after being released by the Browns, inking a one-year, $6 million deal first reported on March 18 by Tennessean reporter Ben Arthur. In his first press conference as a Titan on Monday, March 21, Hooper shared some thoughts on his tenure with the Browns.
“There’s definitely some frustration there,” Hooper said. “I’ve been wondering why they gave me the deal and wasn’t really involved that much. At the end of the day, I’ve always been the type of player to accept the role that I’ve been asked to do.”
Hooper was the first big signing of the Andrew Berry era in Cleveland. Cleveland signed Hooper to a $42 million, four-year contract with $23 million guaranteed over the first two seasons. For a short period of time, he was the highest-paid tight end in football.
Hooper Had Been in Browns’ Plans Before Offseason Shakeup
Hooper caught just 38 balls for 345 yards and three touchdowns last season, really taking a backseat to David Njoku, who was hit with the franchise tag by the Browns this offseason.
Hooper caught just 38 balls for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns last season, really taking a backseat to David Njoku, who was hit with the franchise tag by the Browns this offseason. Cleveland had planned to keep Hooper on board but the team’s plans changed after the dominoes fell this offseason with a trade for Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper.
“Austin Hooper was in Browns’ plans but adding Amari Cooper’s $20M cap hit and pursuing Deshaun Watson changed Cleveland’s salary cap outlook,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweeted.
Hooper now joins another AFC contender when he’ll enter the year as the top tight end option.
“I just want an opportunity to compete and just be part of a good locker room on a good team,” Hooper told reporters. “This was an opportunity that was presented, and it was a no-brainer for me. I mean just good culture and good team.”
Browns Have Faith in David Njoku
With Hooper out of the picture, the Browns will rely on Njoku and third-year tight end Harrison Bryant. The Browns locked up Njoku with the franchise tag before he hit free agency and are working towards a long-term deal.
“David is a guy over the course of the last couple of seasons who has shown great growth as a player and as a person,” head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters on January 8. “The way he is playing on the field and the things that we are asking him to do, I think he is doing a really nice job. I think the tape speaks for itself. He has grown as a professional. He is still a young man so he is continuing to grow as a person, as well. I am really pleased with where he is, and I want him to finish strong.”
The Browns and Njoku’s agent have been in long-term negotiations on an extension, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Njoku finished with the third-most receiving yards among Browns players last season, with 475 yards on 36 receptions — a solid 13.2 average. Most importantly, Njoku has been very clear that he loves Cleveland and wants to be with the Browns for the long haul.
“I love it here. I love it here to the core,” Njoku said during a January 10 press conference. “I honestly want to be here for the rest of my career.”