The Browns have reached agreement with Austin Hooper, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The deal will make Hooper the league’s highest paid tight end of all time. Hooper has also personally confirmed that the Browns are likely to land him (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).
“I’m definitely leaning Cleveland. Unless something comes up unexpected, then no question Cleveland is the leader,” Hooper said.
Once finalized, the deal will pay Hooper $42MM over four years, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets. The pact includes $18.5MM fully guaranteed at signing with $23MM locked in through the first two years. The average annual value of $10.5MM makes Hooper the league’s best compensated TE in NFL history, putting him ahead of Jimmy Graham. Graham, before he was cut, was on a deal that paid him $10MM per annum.
Hooper has drawn interest from just about everyone in recent weeks and, unlike the incumbent Falcons, they had enough available cap room to swing a deal. The deal, for now, is a (teleconferenced) handshake. On Wednesday, the two sides can make things official when the 2020 league year officially begins.
In 13 games for Atlanta in 2019, the two-time Pro Bowler set career-highs in catches (75), receiving yards (787), and touchdowns (six). In Cleveland, Hooper would provide Baker Mayfield with yet another explosive offensive weapon. Last year, despite all of their immense talent, the Browns were unable to capitalize.
This year, things could be different under their new regime, and their aerial attack could be more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile, the Browns will keep their fingers crossed for the swift and full recoveries of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both of whom are coming off of surgery. If they’re good to go, opposing defenses will have their hands full with Hooper, OBJ, Landry, and David Njoku, who would likely line up in two tight end sets with the team’s new high-priced addition.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.