If the Redskins really want to go hard after Austin Hooper, then they can probably start getting their finances in order to do so.
That's because the Falcons are reportedly planning to let the tight end test his market in free agency, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "Atlanta hasn't ruled out" keeping the 25-year-old, per Rapoport, but it also appears like they're prepared to lose him if his price tag gets too high.
The #Falcons are planning to allow starters TE Austin Hooper and De’Vondre Campbell to test free agency, GM Thomas Dimitroff said today. The likelihood is that both players receive large deals in free agency, but Atlanta hasn’t ruled out keeping them for the right price.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 25, 2020
Washington recently decided to release Jordan Reed, which opened up about $8.5 million in salary cap space. Perhaps Ron Rivera — who shared a division with Hooper for most of the last four seasons — will opt to use that money on the Falcons pass catcher.
A very encouraging thing about Hooper is that he's consistently improved since reaching the NFL in 2016. The former third-round selection is coming off of back-to-back 70-plus catch campaigns and he hauled in six scores in 2019.
Also encouraging? His ability to suit up week in and week out. That was obviously a massive issue with Reed, but Hooper has missed just five contests in four years.
Now, Hooper is going to be the best available tight end if he and the Falcons do ultimately part ways, and he's set to command a hefty contract (one ex-agent is already predicting a deal that carries an average annual value of $11 million). At that number, he'd become the highest-paid option at his position, and that may scare some considering he's yet to reach the level of Travis Kelce or others he'd surpass.
However, considering the Redskins' putrid offense last season and the fact that they need to surround Dwayne Haskins with more viable targets, they might be fine paying Hooper that much. And while he's not a true, tier-one tight end yet, he very well could reach that status during his next contract — and perhaps that agreement will happen with Washington.
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