Austin Hooper’s pending free agency is a dilemma for the front office, but their decision may be simpler than Falcons fans think. With so many various needs, a high percentage of cap allocated to offensive playmakers, and a tight cap situation in itself, they may be forced to simply let him walk.
The Falcons won’t re-sign Hooper as he will cost Atlanta too much money, either via tag or via a multi-year deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is announced soon by the team. I’m told they hope to come out of free agency with a pass rusher. On February 4, I mentioned that the Falcons liked Dante Fowler and that he wanted to play in Atlanta.
As well as Hooper has blossomed with Atlanta and built tremendous chemistry with Matt Ryan, it seems his time there may be coming to an end. The Falcons have ways to open up more cap room, but allocating them to one player may simply just not be in their best interest as they try to build a deeper team.
This may not be what Falcons fans are dying to hear, but those familiar with the business of football know that sometimes this is the way things play out. Hooper could very well reset the tight end market this summer, and the Falcons can still receive a high compensatory pick next season if they allow him to walk. The question will be where they are able to find production at tight end. It is hard to expect production from a rookie at the position. Lower tier names such as Eric Ebron are primed to enter free agency this offseason.
More notable news from this excerpt is that the Falcons will look to sign a pass rusher. Maybe they feel they are one pass rusher star away from being a contender, but I would imagine they will likely go after a recently cut player such as Ryan Kerrigan for a reasonable deal given their cap situation. As Pauline mentioned, Dante Fowler has been floated as a possibility as well. I am of the belief the Falcons must sign and draft a pass rusher. If they are able to secure a quality pass rusher in free agency, they may not be as forced to take one in the first round of the draft, and instead use the best player available approach. The Falcons should draft one high regardless, but they also have two second-round picks.
Hooper is a stud and a very important player, but the Falcons need help attacking opposing passers. This may be the only way accomplishing that will be realistic in 2020.