Over the next couple of weeks, we will garner a much better idea of what the Falcons plan to do in free agency. Cuts will be announced in droves, and rumors will begin swirling around potential additions. One thing that we’ve talked about profusely over the last couple of months is Austin Hooper’s contract situation. He’s set to hit the open market at the beginning of his prime after a career year, and the Falcons have to decide if he’s worth the money, given their cap situation.
A couple of weeks ago, Tom Pelissero of the NFL network suggested the tight end market could be in for an explosion. That shouldn’t be that shocking, considering the two best tight ends in football — Travis Kelce and George Kittle — just led their teams to the Super Bowl, and there just aren’t that many guys that big and fast that can catch passes and deliver bruising run blocks. Austin Hooper is one of those players, and he’s the best option in a market that is due for a significant raise.
That explosion might have just begun with the signing of Greg Olsen by the Seahawks. The soon to be 35-year-old tight end signed a one-year pact for $5.5 million guaranteed with incentives that could take the deal up to $7 million. That’s quite a financial commitment for a player on his last legs, who has been extremely injury-prone over the past three seasons, missing 18 games, and has barely eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark combined over those three years. I don’t doubt Olsen still has something left in the tank, but if this deal is a sign of things to come, I don’t see how Austin Hooper doesn’t reset the market, which the Falcons cannot afford to do.
Teams with cap space will be circling Hooper like sharks in the water. He’s progressed each year and was on his way to his first-ever 1,000-yard season if he didn’t sprain his MCL in the middle of the year against the Saints, causing him to miss essentially four games. Of course, the Falcons do have the option to franchise-tag Hooper, but Thomas Dimitroff has already said that is unlikely, and I tend to agree. I’d be shocked if Hooper played next year on the tag, meaning we could very well have already seen his last game as a Falcon.