With Austin Hooper set to reset the free agent market at the tight end position, the Atlanta Falcons are left searching for answers. They need to find a replacement but have limited cap space to do so. On top of that, the track record for tight ends being productive in their rookie seasons is not great, and the free agency class at the position outside of Hooper and Hunter Henry, who was recently franchise tagged by the Chargers, is rather weak. The good news is that as the cuts from other teams have continued to come in, the Falcons finally have a suitable target to pursue; Delanie Walker.
Walker has spent the last seven seasons with the Titans, establishing himself as one of the best tight ends in the game.
Walker spent the first seven years of his career with the 49ers, being used as a versatile weapon but unfortunately lived in the shadow of starter Vernon Davis. Upon his arrival in Tennessee, he established himself as their guy, and eventually the team’s main receiving weapon. He went on to become a 3-time Pro Bowler in Nashville, highlighted by a 94-reception, 1088-yard season back in 2015.
Admittedly, there are a ton of pros and cons to a potential Walker signing, though I feel the pros outweigh the cons.
Walker has had trouble staying on the field the past two seasons and is set to be 36-years old when the season kicks off. He has only been able to play in eight games the past two seasons.
Walker would certainly have to be on an incentive-laden deal. He is likely a one-year fix while the Falcons either draft another tight end or perhaps develop Jaeden Graham. Once an ageless wonder, we are certainly starting to see his play decline, and we all know availability is sometimes the best ability in the NFL.
On the other hand, Walker still presents the most upside out of any of the other available free agent options at the position. Rather than being a team’s top receiving option as he was during the majority of his time in Tennessee, he would benefit greatly from playing third fiddle to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, similar to Hooper in recent memory. He was also released by his team, so he would not affect the Falcons’ compensatory pick formula for the 2021 season for just a one-year bandaid.
Signing Walker is a high-risk, high-reward move for the Falcons due to his health, but given their limited cap space and the plethora of needs on the roster, they really have no other choice. If healthy, Walker can benefit greatly from looser coverage and an upgrade at quarterback. He is certainly a name to keep an eye on with free agency (hopefully) less than a week away.