Austin Hooper signed the richest contract ever for a tight end last week when he agreed to a four-year deal with the Browns worth $42 million, and that includes $23 million guaranteed.
With a giant hole at the tight end position and plenty of cash to spend, multiple reports suggested the Redskins would be aggressive in their pursuit of Hooper. And it sounds like they were.
"It really came down to Cleveland and Washington," Hooper said. "At the end, I chose to be a Brown."
Hooper's comments came during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio and the talented tight end explained that he thought highly of Washington but just liked the situation in Cleveland better. Much of that was the chance to play with quarterback Baker Mayfield.
"It's too exciting of an opportunity to pass up," Hooper said of playing with the Browns. On Mayfield specifically, Hooper cited "how hungry he is to win that’s something that really jumped out to me."
Mayfield is well known for his on-field intensity and fiery attitude, but despite lofty expectations and a talented roster, 2019 was largely a mess in Cleveland. The Browns went 6-10 and Mayfield completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. That's an ugly ratio. This offseason Cleveland overhauled their coaching staff and front office, and the team still has Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and now Hooper.
Despite choosing to play for the Browns, Hooper still complimented Washington and QB Dwayne Haskins.
"Redskins were definitely a team that had shown interest I would say," Hooper said. "Definitely a solid organization with another talented young quarterback so that was going to be my next landing spot."
Once Hooper signed in Cleveland the Redskins decided to shop in the bargain rack at tight end, signing Richard Rodgers and Logan Thomas. Rodgers has the higher profile after playing with Aaron Rodgers for four seasons in Green Bay, but has been hurt the last two years. Thomas, a college quarterback at Virginia Tech, played 16 games last year and made 16 catches.
For Redskins fans that expected major activity in free agency, it must be disappointing to hear that Washington got close for Hooper but couldn't close the deal. The team also got close with Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper before he re-signed with Dallas.
In pro football, close just isn't good enough.
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