In 2019, Austin Hooper jumped into the NFL spotlight, hauling in 75 catches for 787 yards (10.5 avg.) and six touchdowns. In 13 games, Hooper outproduced the combined stats of every tight end in Chicago by a margin. The Chicago Bears' entire tight end room combined for 46 receptions, 416 yards, and two touchdowns.
Not only is Austin Hooper young and productive, but he is also versatile. He can play both tight end spots and handle all in-line blocking responsibilities. Think of Austin Hooper and a healthy Trey Burton on the field together. That could be deadly. Hooper would obviously move ahead of Burton on the depth chart, but the idea of having both is enticing. If injuries continue to plague Burton, Hooper can take over full time.
His coaches praise him for always being in the right place at the right time, which is something the Bears rarely saw consistently from anyone besides Allen Robinson in 2019. Allocating that much of the cap to your tight ends isn’t ideal, but it would only be for one year. Trey Burton's dead cap hit decreases significantly in 2021. The Bears need to invest in tight ends in free agency and in the draft.
One would assume that Falcons would be doing everything in their power to retain Austin Hooper. Atlanta has voiced their desire to lock Hooper down long term, but Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke on Hooper's contract earlier in the week.
"The reality of right now is we are trudging along. After the Super Bowl week, we'll continue to see how we're moving forward. At this point, there's no updates on Austin."
That doesn't sound like they're anywhere close just yet. If you check out On Tap's 2020 UFA Big Board, you'll notice that Hooper's $9.9 Million market value leads all free-agent tight ends. There is a possibility the Falcons pull out of the bidding war.
Why not pursue a proven starter who’s career has been trending upwards for four years? Ryan Pace is known to be aggressive and pay a little extra for players. Is Austin Hooper on his radar? He should be.