There is still a possibility the Falcons and Austin Hooper settle on a contract extension this offseason, but he is going to garner interest from nearly any team that has cap space. And rightfully so, Hooper averaged over a 70% catch rate all four years with Atlanta while finishing under 10 yards per reception just once. Ideally, both parties could reach an agreement, and Hooper will be a Falcon for the foreseeable future. But with limited cap space at their disposal, Thomas Dimitroff and company may have to move on — no matter how productive he was in 2019.
Assuming the Falcons do decide to let him walk, they are going to have to sign a lesser option in free agency. They will likely draft a tight end as well, but rookie tight ends rarely offer much production, so bringing in a veteran is a must. Even though several of these free agents have questions about their age or injury history, the front office has to consider every option due to their salary cap restrictions.
I decided to leave restricted free agents out of this article for the simple reason that I assume those teams will re-sign their designated RFAs. i.e., Jacob Hollister, Vance McDonald, and Blake Jarwin.
If Henry didn’t have injury concerns, he wouldn’t hit free agency at all because his production has never been in question. However, he missed the entire 2018 season after a torn ACL then four more games this past year due to a fracture in his knee. The debate on whether a team should sign him is dependent on his availability. If the Falcons plan to offer him a contract, there needs to be a competent backup in case the inevitable happens.
It is almost a guarantee that the Colts will not retain their tight end. Their general manager, Chris Ballard, stated the team would likely move on from Ebron this offseason. He is an above-average pass-catcher who had a questionable fall out with Indianapolis after deciding to have season-ending ankle surgery following a loss to Houston. The stigma surrounding his name is that he left the team hanging. The bright side is that he will be a bargain for someone else. Ebron’s only a year removed from catching 66 balls for 750 yards and 13 TDs.
Division rival, Carolina Panthers and aging tight end, Olsen have mutually agreed to part ways this offseason. Olsen had a solid year of production, catching 52 passes for nearly 600 yards. At 35, he is no longer one of the best tight ends in the game, but he still has plenty left in the tank to offer a team on a one-year deal. This would be a temporary fix, but if the Falcons were to sign him, he would also serve as a perfect mentor for whoever they select in the draft.
Healthy and active for an entire season is foreign to Eifert. And though he did just that last year, he did not look like the same guy pre-injury. Eifert should be medically vetted three times over then still have a starting level backup behind him for the Falcons to bring him in. He should be treated like a No. 2 option, and anything more will be a pleasant surprise. Before all the injuries, Eifert was in the same conversations as Gronk. If the Falcons can get a fraction of that production, he will be viewed as a steal.