Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Mon 3/16/20 4:46 PM

Hooper is poised to sign a four-year, $42 million deal with the Browns, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports.

EDGE Analysis

Breer notes that the tight end is in line to earn $23 million over the first two years of the deal, all of which is slated to be guaranteed. With Hooper set to join the mix, David Njoku's volume figures to take a hit. Hooper is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he set career highs in catches (75), yards (787) and TDs (six), while playing 13 games. The money Cleveland plans to give him is a clear indication that he'll be a focal part of the team's passing attack in 2020.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Mon 3/16/20 12:47 PM

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports Hooper has agreed to contract terms with the Browns, while the tight end told Adam Schefter of ESPN that he's "definitely leaning Cleveland."

EDGE Analysis

The first report presents Hooper to Cleveland as a sure thing, while Schefter's report suggests there's still a small degree of uncertainty. With Green Bay and Washington also rumored to have interest in Hooper, the Browns came out firing with a big offer at the very beginning of the "legal tampering" period that opened at 12 p.m. ET on Monday. This is a pretty strong signal that the new leadership in Cleveland doesn't hold David Njoku in high regard, though Browns general manager Andrew Berry suggested in February that he'd likely pick up the tight end's fifth-year option for 2021.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Tue 2/25/20 11:07 AM

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Hooper will be allowed to test the open market, Jason Butt of The Athletic reports.

EDGE Analysis

Dimitroff didn't explicitly rule out the possibility of re-signing the tight end, but it seems like a long shot if the team isn't even willing to use a franchise tag for approximately $10.7 million. Hooper should be able to reach that number for his average annual value on a long-term contract, coming off a breakout 2019 campaign with 787 yards in 13 games. The Falcons have a tough cap situation, but there are plenty of other teams with ample space and a need for a pass-catching TE.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Wed 1/22/20 4:39 PM

GM Thomas Dimitroff said there are "no updates" on Hooper's contract discussions with the Falcons, Kelsey Conway of the team's official website reports.

EDGE Analysis

Dimitroff's "no update" statement is actually an update of sorts, and he also used the term "trudging along" when reporters asked him about the tight end. Hooper enjoyed a breakout season in the final year of his rookie contract, potentially positioning himself as the top TE available in free agency. However, the franchise tag is arguably a bargain from the Falcons' perspective, as the number -- expected to be around $10.7 million -- comes from a formula based on the five largest salary cap hits for TEs in each of the past five years. It just so happens that most of the league's premium tight ends in recent seasons -- including Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce -- signed team-friendly extensions that sacrificed upside for security. That reality gives the Falcons some leverage in negotiations, but their dicey cap situation hands the leverage right back to Hooper. Ultimately, the Falcons will have a tough time making other moves unless they allow Hooper to leave or sign him to a long-term deal with a lower cap hit for 2020. As such, the franchise tag likely would be viewed as a bridge for a multi-year contract.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Mon 12/30/19 1:20 PM

Hooper, who can become a free agent in March, said Monday that the Falcons have yet to engage him in talks about an extension, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "I'm not going to speak on that too much," Hooper said, when asked about his contract situation. "It's a business. I'm open to coming back here. I don't know. ... I haven't received an offer yet. I'm going to let my representation and the representation for the Falcons handle that."

EDGE Analysis

Despite missing three games due to a sprained MCL in his knee, Hooper turned in the best season of his four-year career in 2019, posting 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Atlanta was able to clear up some cap space over the weekend by restructuring the 2020 contracts of Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett, so look for the team to apply some of those savings toward a new deal for Hooper.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Sun 12/29/19 7:40 PM

Hooper caught seven of nine targets for 45 receiving yards during Sunday's 28-22 overtime win against Tampa Bay.

EDGE Analysis

Though his yardage output was well below his pre-existing season average of 61.8 receiving yards per game, Hooper collected seven catches for a second consecutive outing during Sunday's finale. The 25-year-old tight end found himself in firm competition for a second consecutive Pro Bowl bid through 10 weeks of the 2019 campaign, but a knee issue subsequently sidelined him for three games, and his production during his first two games back from the injury amounted to just five catches for 52 yards. Hooper rebounded over the final two weeks of the year, however, providing him with additional leverage as he transitions into his first opportunity at free agency during the 2020 offseason.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Sun 12/22/19 5:17 PM

Hooper snagged seven of nine targets for 82 receiving yards during Sunday's 24-12 win against the Jaguars.

EDGE Analysis

Prior to an encouraging Week 16 showing against Jacksonville, Hooper had managed just five catches for 52 yards in his first two games back from a sprained MCL suffered Nov. 10 at New Orleans. Hooper broke out of his brief slump Sunday, garnering his highest number of targets since Week 5 and translating those opportunities into his third-greatest yardage output of 2019. Taking on a Buccaneers defense Week 17 that ranks bottom 10 in receptions (75), receiving yards (899) and touchdowns (seven) allowed to opposing tight ends, Hooper is a high-upside fantasy play for the Falcons' regular-season finale.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Sun 12/15/19 11:00 PM

Hooper caught three of six targets for 20 receiving yards during Sunday's 29-22 win against San Francisco.

EDGE Analysis

The 2018 Pro Bowl tight end found himself on pace for 100 receptions, 1,080 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns through the first 10 weeks of the season, but since suffering a sprained MCL against New Orleans on Nov. 10 he has compiled just five catches for 52 yards in appearances over the past two weeks. Though he is an electrifying receiving threat when healthy, Hooper's limited production in his first two games back from injury devalue his outlook. Hooper will have a prime opportunity to rebound against Jacksonville in Week 16 as the Jaguars' defense has surrendered the third-most TE touchdowns thus far in 2019.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Sun 12/8/19 7:39 PM

Hooper caught two of six targets for 32 receiving yards during Sunday's 40-20 win against Carolina.

EDGE Analysis

It's not that Hooper wasn't involved Sunday, as his six targets ranked second on the team behind Julio Jones' eight. His 18-yard catch midway through the second quarter spurred a six-play touchdown drive for Atlanta, but otherwise he hauled in only one of five targets on the afternoon. Though Hooper's Week 14 output was disappointing for those who plugged him into lineups coming off his three-game absence from a sprained MCL, it's encouraging at least that he remained a high-volume target upon his return to the lineup. The Week 15 matchup does not provide optimism for a bounceback performance, however, with San Francisco ranking No. 1 in the NFL with just 389 receiving yards allowed to opposing tight ends this season.

Austin Hooper
TE CLE (9)
Fri 12/6/19 3:24 PM

Hooper (knee) doesn't have an injury designation for Sunday's matchup with the Panthers, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

EDGE Analysis

The tight end will return from a three-game absence, hoping to pick up where he left off in the midst of a breakout season. Hooper's presence pushes Jaeden Graham back to a reserve role, while Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage face more competition for targets (Julio Jones has also been cleared to return from an injury).