The Austin Hooper saga continues to drag on.
There has been a ton of speculation that Hoop is expected to reset the free agency market at the tight end position this offseason. To our knowledge, the Falcons are yet to make an offer and may look to use their limited cap space to fill various needs on the team. Atlanta could retain Hooper; it would just make for a very top-heavy roster that desperately needs depth and help in the trenches.
We have heard various reports, including that Hooper could get as much as $13 million per year. We have had others speculate that the Falcons will instead pursue a pass rusher in free agency. Owner Arthur Blank’s comments did not seem encouraging as far as his retention goes:
“I think he’s a young, ascending player, and he has performed at a very high level for us,” Blank told ESPN. “I think he’s worthy, certainly, of a new contract based on market. Whether that fits in with us and our salary cap remains to be seen.
Now, we finally have an expert who is projecting Austin Hooper’s next deal. In an article from ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, former NFL agent Joel Corry offered his estimation:
“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.
This would make Hooper the highest-paid NFL tight end until the 49ers offer George Kittle a pen.
Now, $11 million is much more doable than $13 million, and the Falcons can backload this deal if they feel bringing him back is the right move. This was actually a friendlier, albeit record-breaking, estimation compared to what others have said. Maybe the Falcons have decided they will not allocate that much cap to the position. Perhaps they are simply gauging his value and seeing if they can make a competitive offer if the price is right.