Austin Hooper

Latest On Falcons TE Austin Hooper

Following the best statistical season of his career, Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is set to hit free agency. However, the Pro Bowler told 92.9 The Game in Atlanta that the front office hasn’t approached him about a new contract (Twitter link).

“I mean my whole attitude is that it will happen the way its supposed to,” Hooper said. “I did my part, ended up here at the Pro Bowl, so if the organization wants me, they’ll offer me [a contract].

“I still haven’t received an offer from them. If and when they’re ready…I’ll let my representation and the representation of the Falcons handle it. But as of now, I’m just enjoying what could be my last game as a Falcon down here at the Pro Bowl.”

General manager Thomas Dimitroff recently echoed those sentiments.

“The reality of right now is we are trudging along,” Dimitroff said (via the team’s website). “After the Super Bowl week, we’ll continue to see how we’re moving forward. At this point, there’s no updates on Austin.”

We heard earlier this week that the organization wouldn’t be slapping Hooper with the franchise tag, which is projected to be north of $10MM. After handing out a number of lucrative extensions last offseason, the Falcons are projected to have only $6.7MM in cap space this year. If they want to retain Hooper, they’ll have to keep creative with their cap machinations.

Despite appearing in a career-low 13 games, Hooper finished with career-highs in receptions (75), receiving yards (787), and touchdowns (six).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Unlikely To Tag Austin Hooper

The Falcons used their 2019 offseason to sign three of their top players to lucrative extensions. Partially because of this, their 2020 offseason may be a bit quieter. While the team has identified multiple players it would like to retain, GM Thomas Dimitroff does not have much cap space with which to work.

Austin Hooper loomed as a trade candidate before this season’s deadline, but the Falcons held onto him and identified their top tight end as a player they could potentially extend. Dimitroff acknowledged Tuesday that the sides have not engaged in contract talks and that the franchise tag does not appear realistic, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

The tight end franchise tag is expected to come in at approximately $10.7MM. While Dimitroff indicated that is technically an option, the Falcons’ projected $6.7MM in cap space (fifth-least in the NFL) will make such a move difficult.

Hooper broke out in his contract year, establishing new career-high marks in catches (75), yards (787) and touchdowns (six). He did so in 13 games, missing three because of a hamstring injury. The Falcons have begun talks with linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, but with the team having already extended Deion Jones, it would seem Campbell could well join Hooper in free agency. The Falcons used their 2019 tag on Grady Jarrett before extending him in July; they then gave Julio Jones a monster extension.

Should he reach the market, he would join Eric Ebron and Hunter Henry as a top tight end available. The Colts have indicated they will not move to re-sign Ebron, while nothing has come out on Chargers talks with Henry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: JPP, Panthers, Falcons

Bruce Arians has understandably asserted Shaquil Barrett‘s all-time contract year will keep him with the Buccaneers but added the team wants to keep its other high-profile front-seven starters as well. Both Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh‘s contracts are up, but Arians said keeping both will be a top priority (Twitter link via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com). The veteran HC may have indicated JPP resides slightly higher on the priority list as well, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Pierre-Paul returned from another scary injury this season and has registered 8.5 sacks in 10 games, giving him 21 in two Bucs seasons. The Bucs hold a great deal of cap space, at $88.9MM, but will likely need to devote a chunk of that amount to Jameis Winston.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • If Greg Olsen opts to put off his broadcasting career for another year, he will likely need to relocate. The veteran tight end indicated recently he did not want to take part in a potential Panthers rebuild. While the franchise has not committed to charting that path, Joe Person of The Athletic expects Olsen to be elsewhere in 2020. “I just think sometimes the writing’s on the wall,” Olsen said, via Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). “There hasn’t been anything officially. But I wanted to make sure if that was my last time that I made sure I told the people that I needed to how much they meant on my career.” One year (at a $6.6MM base salary) remains on the 34-year-old tight end’s contract. Carolina would save $8.1MM by cutting Olsen, its top tight end for the past nine years.
  • Moving to a younger NFC South tight end, Austin Hooper acknowledged the Falcons have not yet made him an offer to stay, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Hooper, however, would like to return, and Thomas Dimitroff appeared to indicate the breakout tight end will be a priority (Twitter link via Ledbetter). We heard this earlier this season as well.
  • A Hooper return may lead De’Vondre Campbell elsewhere. The Falcons already gave a top-market contract to Deion Jones and are up against the salary cap. While noting he wants to stay in Atlanta, the Falcons’ top 2019 tackler acknowledged (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure) he may need to change teams. Although the Falcons will consider re-signing Campbell and Vic Beasley, Dimitroff did not commit to either’s return (via McClure, on Twitter).
  • Despite Breshad Perriman‘s end-of-season stretch potentially raising his free agency price, the Buccaneers‘ No. 3 wideout would like to stay in this high-octane offense. Perriman signed a one-year, $4MM deal with Tampa Bay, doing so after backing out of a Cleveland commitment following the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. The Bucs have Mike Evans on a high-end deal and will see Chris Godwin enter a contract year in 2020, perhaps pushing Perriman to another team.
  • A player the Panthers do not want on another team: James Bradberry. Carolina’s top cornerback met with GM Marty Hurney, and David Newton of ESPN.com notes the fourth-year corner received a “be patient” message from this summit. The Panthers want Bradberry back, Newton adds, but the former Round 2 pick would obviously prefer an upper-echelon deal to stay.

Injury Notes: Vernon, Falcons, Njoku, Cole

With defensive lineman Myles Garrett and Larry Objunjobi suspended for this week’s matchup against the Bengals, the Browns were hoping to invite starting end Olivier Vernon back into the lineup after missing the team’s previous two games with a knee injury. However, according to Mary Kay Kabot of Cleveland.com, Vernon has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, leaving Sheldon Richardson as the team’s only primary starter along the defensive front.

It has been a chaotic season for Cleveland, reaching a climax in last Thursday’s on-field fight with the Steelers. Hoping to put that in the rear-view mirror the Browns will have to rely heavily on their depth to build some positive momentum.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the NFL:

  • The Falcons will be without two of their primary offensive weapons this weekend. Running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper are both out for this Sunday’s game alongside rotational defensive back Kemal Ishmael, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional.
  • Browns tight end David Njoku will not return this week from the injured reserve, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Njoku, who has been rehabbing a wrist injury, returned to practice this week, but is not quite ready for game action.
  • Texans linebacker Dylan Cole is out for the season with a torn ACL, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Cole served as Houston’s primary backup at two linebacker positions and played a major role in the team’s special teams. He played in 11 games and recorded 16 tackles on the season. Going forward, the Texans will need to sure up their depth on special teams and on the second level of their defense.

Falcons’ Austin Hooper To Miss 4 Games?

Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is expected to miss roughly one month of action with a knee injury, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Hooper presently leads all tight ends in catches, but he’s unlikely to finish with that mantle after sitting out several games in the second half of the season.

Hooper was forced out of Sunday’s game after hauling in four passes for 17 yards, including one touchdown catch. To date, he has 56 catches for 608 yards and six scores, positioning him as one of the best young TEs in the game today.

The Falcons, meanwhile, are 2-7, with no real shot at the postseason (less than 1%, according to FiveThirtyEight). By the time Hooper heals up, it might not behoove the Falcons to put him back on the field for the final three games of the year.

Without Hooper, the Falcons are expected to move forward with Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham as their primary TEs. They might also add another TE to the mix, if they can find room on the 53-man roster. If they’re able to squeeze in a TE, Carson Meier could be a candidate for promotion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons’ Freeman, Hooper Suffer Injuries

The Falcons came away with the win on Sunday, but it could prove to be costly. Tight end Austin Hooper and running back Devonta Freeman both suffered injuries in the victory over the rival Saints, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter links). 

Hooper, the league’s leader at the tight end position with 56 catches, will get an MRI on his knee. Freeman, meanwhile, will be getting a scan on his sprained foot. Hooper is expected to miss some time and Freeman’s situation is being closely monitored.

Hooper is in the midst of a breakout season. Hooper, 25, was forced out of Sunday’s game after hauling in four passes for 17 yards, including one touchdown reception. To date, he has 56 catches for 608 yards and six scores, positioning him as one of the best young TEs in the game today.

It sounds like Hooper will miss Sunday’s game against the Panthers and then some. Given the Falcons’ 2-7 record and Hooper’s importance to the team moving forward, one has to wonder if they might take the cautious approach and keep him off the field for the rest of the season, if there’s a possibility of aggravating the injury.

Freeman, meanwhile, hasn’t been having a banner year, but he remains an important figure in the Falcons’ offense. So far this year, he has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Hopkins, Slay, Hooper

The trade deadline is two days away, so there are plenty of rumors to pass along. Of course, many of those rumors center around this year’s non-contenders, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says that two such teams — the Redskins and Bengals — continue to rebuff inquiries concerning veterans who should be available. Rival GMs have grown increasingly frustrated with Washington and Cincinnati, and La Canfora says opposing clubs have become resigned to the fact that they are not going to be able to swing a deal with those obstinate franchises. That means that a number of big names — Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, A.J. Green, and Carlos Dunlap, to name a few — are looking more and more likely to stay put.

Now for more trade rumors from around the league, starting with another nugget out of Cincinnati:

  • Michael Lombardi of The Athletic agrees that the Bengals are likely to stand pat at the deadline for the most part, but he does believe the club will move tight end Tyler Eifert.
  • Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is decidedly not on the trading block, but teams have still called Houston to ask about the star wideout, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets. That obviously sounds like clubs doing their due diligence more than anything else, and Glazer acknowledges that it would take an awful lot for the Texans to move Hopkins.
  • The Lions have received calls on CB Darius Slay, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It would take a big offer to pry Slay from Detroit, but in the wake of Slay’s comments earlier this week, maybe the Lions will be more inclined to move him.
  • RB-needy teams have called the Seahawks to inquire on Rashaad Penny, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reports (video link). Penny is not on the block, per se, but the 2018 first-rounder is drawing interest. In the same video, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says Chargers RB Melvin Gordon could also be on the move.
  • Schefter reports that the 49ers have received calls on backup QB C.J. Beathard, whom Schefter suggests could be on the move.
  • The Falcons have fielded calls on DT Tyeler Davison, per Lombardi, but Atlanta has told other teams Davison will not be moved. The team is also going to hang on to TE Austin Hooper, as Schefter tweets.
  • The Giants are likely to cut Nate Solder after the season, so Lombardi believes Big Blue should go ahead and trade him now (though HC Pat Shurmur, whose job could be in jeopardy, would likely resist such a move). The Browns continue to be in the market for OT help, as Schefter writes, and the Patriots may also be interested in a reunion with Solder. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says Solder was not a viable option for Cleveland as of the middle of last week, but that could change in the next couple of days.
  • Janoris Jenkins is another member of the Giants who could be on the move, and while he is likely open to joining a contender, he just wants New York to be transparent with their plans for him, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. That sentiment was also expressed by former Giants like Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr., who both felt as though Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman were not straightforward with them. Dunleavy names the Chiefs as a potential landing spot for Jenkins.
  • Interest remains heavy on Broncos vets Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe, as La Canfora writes. Denver is open to moving Harris and Wolfe, and rival GMs expect the Broncos to make those trades happen.

Trade Notes: Falcons, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Jets, Redskins, Giants, Eagles, Bills, Packers

Teams continue to ask about Austin Hooper, whose 526 receiving yards sit 11th in the NFL entering Week 8. However, the Falcons have spurned suitors who’ve called about the emerging tight end, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Hooper is in a contract year, but the Falcons believe they have a chance to re-sign him. The Falcons, though, are the team doing the contacting regarding Vic Beasley. Atlanta is shopping its former All-Pro defensive end, who is playing out a $12.8MM fifth-year option. Pass rushers are obviously valuable, but with Beasley’s play having fallen off since that 2016 breakthrough, the return might not be what the Falcons seek.

Here is the latest from the trade market:

  • The Redskins continue to respond with hard nos when asked about Trent Williams, but Breer adds Josh Norman‘s name has been floated around. With Norman having not lived up to the $15MM-AAV contract he signed in 2016, it would be hard to imagine the Redskins getting much value for the eighth-year cornerback.
  • A cornerback performing better continues to look likelier to stay put. Chris Harris does not expect to be traded, and Troy Renck of Denver7 notes the Broncos are not as motivated to deal their four-time Pro Bowler as they were to ship out Emmanuel Sanders. A second-round pick would likely be necessary here, per Breer. Considering the Broncos’ issues finding corners as of late, dealing Harris would create a massive offseason need in Denver.
  • The Bengals are 0-7, and A.J. Green continues to come up in trade rumors. But the old-school organization isn’t budging. Mike Brown has not signed off on a firesale, Breer adds, instead preferring to provide first-year HC Zac Taylor with a foundation. That project is not going well so far, with the veteran-laden team performing poorly. Cincinnati’s potential trade chips also include franchise sack leaders Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Neither appears to be a departure candidate. Tyler Eifert is a name Breer mentions could be dealt, but the tight end obviously has a significant injury history that would limit a return.
  • As for the expensive New York corners, Janoris Jenkins has generated more interest than Trumaine Johnson. The Giants have shopped Jenkins around some, per Breer, while Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes it would require “a miracle” for a team to take Johnson’s salary off the Jets‘ payroll. Jenkins is signed through 2020, with $5.37MM remaining in 2019 salary.
  • In addition to the Saints exploring receiver additions, the Bills, Eagles and Packers are as well, Breer notes. This could heat up the Robby Anderson market, but Breer adds Browns wideout Rashard Higgins has been discussed in advance of Tuesday’s deadline. The backup is in a contract year. However, Higgins has battled knee issues and has only played in one 2019 game.
  • With Mark Andrews having outproduced Hayden Hurst, the Ravens have received calls on their 2018 top pick. As of now, however, Hurst is not believed to be available, per Breer.

Falcons Believe They’ll Keep Austin Hooper

The Falcons’ fire sale is underway, but it sounds like Austin Hooper will be staying put. Even though the tight end is bound for unrestricted free agency as the Falcons look to manage salary cap issues, club officials still believe they can re-sign him this offseason, Jeff Schultz of The Athletic tweets

With that in mind, there’s little motivation for the Falcons to trade Hooper, who has been one of the few major bright spots for the Falcons during an otherwise dismal year. To date, Hooper has reeled in 46 catches for 526 yards and four touchdowns, putting him on pace to blow past last year’s 71/660/4 stat line. And, just a couple of weeks ago, he reminded everyone in Atlanta of just how dangerous he can be with eight catches, 117 yards, and a touchdown against the Rams.

Hooper, 25 in November, is earning just $2.025MM in base pay in the final year of his rookie contract. The 6’4″ target is in line for a major pay day in March, but the Falcons seem willing to be the ones writing the check.

There could be even more targets and opportunities for Hooper in the second half of the year. Mohamed Sanu, who drew 42 looks in seven games, was shipped to the Patriots on Tuesday morning in exchange for a second-round pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teams Identifying Falcons Trade Targets

While standout contract-year Broncos (and Von Miller) have cropped up in trade rumors, teams are also monitoring select Falcons. Atlanta has slunk to 1-4 and has a few key veterans on expiring contracts.

Vic Beasley, De’Vondre Campbell and Austin Hooper are on some teams’ radars, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The Falcons gave megadeals to a defensive lineman (Grady Jarrett), a linebacker (Deion Jones) and a pass catcher (Julio Jones) this summer but have the above starters in contract years. This year’s trade deadline is Oct. 29.

Arthur Blank said the Falcons are not considering staff changes, but with this veteran team struggling (and the Redskins firing Jay Gruden), Dan Quinn‘s seat may be the NFL’s hottest. The Falcons are 8-13 since advancing to the divisional round in 2017, and they’ve gone through several coordinators since the Super Bowl LI collapse.

Pro Football Focus graded Beasley as its worst full-time edge defender in 2018. The site again has the 2015 first-round pick toward the bottom this season. Beasley (1.5 sacks, five QB hits) has nearly $10MM remaining on his 2019 fifth-year option, making a trade a tougher sell. The 27-year-old pass rusher was a 2016 All-Pro, however, after racking up 15.5 sacks during Atlanta’s NFC title slate.

Campbell has started alongside Jones since the duo’s 2016 rookie season, rates as PFF’s No. 33 off-ball linebacker and is finishing out a fourth-round contract. Less than $2MM remains on Campbell’s 2019 salary. He has made a Falcons-best 48 tackles and forced two fumbles this season. Finishing up a third-round contract, Hooper has served as the Falcons’ top tight end for multiple seasons. His 363 yards in 2019 rank third among tight ends.

Projected to be more than $10MM over the 2020 cap, the Falcons will almost certainly have to let some of these UFAs-to-be walk if they are not traded. The Falcons could fetch 2021 compensatory picks for them, however, depending on their 2020 free agency activity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.