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Austin Hooper's next deal could reset the tight end market - Vaughn McClure


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Time is ticking. NFL free agency is approaching quickly.

And Austin Hooper might soon find himself wearing a new uniform.

Hooper, the Atlanta Falcons' two-time Pro Bowl tight end, officially becomes a free agent March 18. His agent, Steve Caric, can begin negotiating with other teams March 16.

So how will this scenario all play out? How much money will Hooper secure in the end?

Former NFL agent Joel Corry, now a contract and salary-cap analyst, has been monitoring Hooper's situation closely. Corry doesn't buy any talk of the Falcons not having enough salary-cap space to commit to Hooper despite their current $199.1 million in cap commitments.

"The cap is always an excuse like, 'Well, we don't have any cap room to sign somebody.' If you truly want somebody, you can find a way," Corry said. "If this is a desperation year for the Falcons, that would suggest that you want to make a huge run at trying to keep Austin Hooper. Before he got hurt last season, he was arguably the most productive tight end in the NFL."

Through the first eight games of last season, Hooper stood fifth in the league in receptions with 52, behind only receivers Michael Thomas (73), DeAndre Hopkins (60), Cooper Kupp (58) and Julian Edelman (53). Hooper's hot start was derailed by an MCL sprain that caused him to miss three games, but he still finished with a career-best 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns.

Corry pointed out how the tight-end market has been stagnant since 2014 when Jimmy Graham got $10 million per year with $20.9 million in guarantees from the Saints as a franchise player. Hooper is expected to top Graham's $10 million per year average wherever he ends up signing, even if he remains with the Falcons.

"You've got two [impending] free agents who could move the needle, I would think, past Graham, and one who I'm pretty sure will hit the open market in Hooper," Corry said. "Franchising him [at around $10.7 million] would be difficult. The other guy is Hunter Henry, who's got a better chance of being restricted by either the franchise or transition tag. If Henry gets restricted, that's pretty much going to leave Hooper as the guy out there in free agency."

Corry foreshadowed how a Hooper deal might look.

"Let's say like $44 million over four years, and totally guarantee the first two years at $26.5 million," Corry said. "The player would probably want a three-year deal. Hooper is 25 years old. His best football is ahead of him. If he can put himself [in position] for a contract extension after playing two years when he's still in his prime, that would be preferable to him.

"The team probably would want to do a five-year deal because you can prorate the signing bonus over five rather than three [for cap space]. But he's not doing a five because he's going to want another bite at the apple. That's why I say it's probably going to be four years."

Getting $11 million per year with almost $27 million guaranteed would put Hooper not only ahead of Graham in average salary per year, but ahead of Chicago's Trey Burton ($22 million guarantee) in guaranteed money. But for Hooper or any other tight end, being the richest at the position might not last long. San Francisco's George Kittle still has one year remaining on his deal but will cash in soon.

"Kittle will get done at some point, and that is going to raise the bar dramatically," Corry said. "The best thing for the impending free-agent tight ends -- and I don't think it's going to happen -- would be for Kittle and the 49ers to get something done quickly. But I suspect there's going to be sticker shock on that one. If I'm George Kittle, I'm taking the position of, 'I'm your No. 1 receiver, so don't talk to me about tight-end money. I want to be paid like a top receiver threat.'

"I don't anticipate Kittle signing for anything under $13 million per year. You've never had a tight end with $30 million in guarantees. He'll probably be the first."
 
As for Hooper, the Falcons would have to do some reshuffling to re-sign him. They already restructured the contracts of quarterback Matt Ryan and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to create more cap space. Their most pressing need is for pass-rushers, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff previously called Hooper a priority. Losing Hooper probably would mean targeting a pass-catching tight end in the draft, although they saw some flashes from undrafted Jaeden Graham last season.

"To sign Hooper, you're going to have to restructure some more contracts, like maybe Julio Jones," Corry said. "You'll have to cut somebody like Devonta Freeman [$3.5 million cap savings]. You went out and paid some offensive linemen that don't necessarily need to be there next season. Like I said, if you really want to sign someone, you'll find a way."

https://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/35013/austin-hoopers-next-deal-could-reset-the-tight-end-market

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Can’t help but feel if our offence regresses at all we are done for 2020. I expect increased play from the OL with our draft selections from last season. I am very concerned trying to replace Hoopers production with another TE will result negatively and hence put us back again. I’d find a way to get it done knowing the following year we have a lot of guys we can cut (2 x FA OGs, Tru, Free, etc). Kick the can......

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5 hours ago, ATLSlobberKnockers said:

If we let Hooper walk it would be easier to upgrade WR3 with a really good polished wr in this draft, than tp try to replace Hoopers production with a rookie TE in this weak class. Its the deepest draft ever at wr, so at some point wr is going to be.bpa

I’m sticking with Gage. You can tell there is something very good about him. I wouldn’t touch the offense outside of running back and a TE mid to late. The coaches need to get the oline figured out with Brown Carp and Gono at LG and I’m happy with our depth at WR unless we are taking one very late.

This team needs defense, lots and lots of defense.

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7 hours ago, primetime said:

Can’t help but feel if our offence regresses at all we are done for 2020. I expect increased play from the OL with our draft selections from last season. I am very concerned trying to replace Hoopers production with another TE will result negatively and hence put us back again. I’d find a way to get it done knowing the following year we have a lot of guys we can cut (2 x FA OGs, Tru, Free, etc). Kick the can......

That's whats going to happen, we saw how bad our offense was when Hooper was out a few games this year. We've been over paying several useless players for years and now can't come up the the dough to pay a young player who actually earned it. Our offense will regress and we will have the same issues we've had on defense for the last 13 years.

We will probably see Hooper develop into a top TE in the league (he's already top 5) and then wonder why we let him walk.

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29 minutes ago, GleasonForever! said:

Lmao. He’s not worry that at all. 
 
im paying Kelce, Henry, and Kittle that much  i just can’t help think Hoop benefited from the talent around him but hey get set for life Hoop. Hopefully it’s not the falcons that do it. 

 

 Henry? He has never produced to the level Hooper has any is a constant injury risk. Kelce and Kittle are the only sure fire arguments as better TE than Hooper. 

any player is worth what the market will pay him. I hope he gets his and balls out so the same people acting like he isn’t good enough can then blast TD or our new TE for our offense declining.

crazy how this board in general downs a player if he’s already a Falcon, but would covet same player if they were from another team.

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2 hours ago, CraigSmackDaddy said:

Hoop is underrated around here for some reason.  If he goes elsewhere we’re gonna miss that production.  I get letting him walk for 11 mil a season but I also think he’s worth it too.  

Hes under rated cause most people know he is gone and are just deluding themself.

We've been looking for a good TE since TG left we finally drafted a TE who is still young and a top 5 TE and we are going to let him walk.

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Love Hooper but he aint Kittle or Kronk, he is more a product of the system he's in. How many times you see Hoop gain extra yard busting thru tackles like Kittle or Kronk did? Rarely. Most of Hoops yards were gained a safety valve for Matt Ryan throwing underneath. Hooper didn't stretch the field like Kronk or Kittle and any team that pays him as such is a sucker. Loved that Hoop plaued for us and did a good job but he's good not great.  Good bye. 

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Just now, MAD597 said:

Hes under rated cause most people know he is gone and are just deluding themself.

We've been looking for a good TE since TG left we finally drafted a TE who is still yoing and a top 5 TE and we are going to let him walk.

He’s very much Overrated.  Hooper is good but he’s not somebody any defense is afraid or gameplans to stop.  Julio Jones being doubled and triple teamed helped him a lot.

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Paying Hooper is not a big huge deal because the CAP can be so manipulated. Hooper has a great chemistry with Matt Ryan and he is a hard working guy. You cannot replace players like him who are great team players and great fit for the system.

If Matty Ice and the Falcons want him back badly, it will get done. Matty is a big advocate for Hooper- he is going to lobby indirectly to keep him. Restructure Julio and cut Freeman, you are good. If Neal could be cut, then go for it. Restructure Mack contract and maybe Tru.... 

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40 minutes ago, CraigSmackDaddy said:

Hoop is underrated around here for some reason.  If he goes elsewhere we’re gonna miss that production.  I get letting him walk for 11 mil a season but I also think he’s worth it too.  

agree amazing the lack of knowledge this board has

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5 hours ago, 32wood84white said:

I’m sticking with Gage. You can tell there is something very good about him. I wouldn’t touch the offense outside of running back and a TE mid to late. The coaches need to get the oline figured out with Brown Carp and Gono at LG and I’m happy with our depth at WR unless we are taking one very late.

This team needs defense, lots and lots of defense.

Agree defense is way more important than keeping Hooper around. I don't see how Blank and the Falcon FO can justify paying Hooper $10 million plus for a handful of TD's per season. Last season he had six, in previous seasons he had 4 TD receptions or less. I know he was hurt for 3 games. He's a solid TE, but hardly a scoring machine or a necessary expense with the abundance of receiving talent the Falcons already enjoy on offense.

Add to that the fact Jaedon Graham has looked excellent when given the opportunity to get some snaps. Grab a TE in the mid to late rounds of the draft and the needs at that position will be effectively met.  Even though there's probably a way to get around the Cap constraints to keep Hooper, it's still putting essential roster money on the wrong side of the LOS.

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