Hooper is poised to sign a four-year, $42 million deal with the Browns, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports. 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.
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." 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.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Hooper will be allowed to test the open market, Jason Butt of The Athletic reports. 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.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff said Wednesday there are "no updates" on Hooper's contract discussions with the Falcons, Kelsey Conway of Atlanta's official site reports. Dimitroff's 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 tight end 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 the position group 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.
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." 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.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|8||11/01||Las Vegas Raiders||0.00|
|15||12/20||@New York Giants||25||8.00|
|16||12/27||@New York Jets||4||5.13|
|3 Year Avg||83||65||658||4||30||10.12||91|