NFL Rumors: Potential Patriots Target Austin Hooper To Test Free Agency


Regardless of who’s under center next season, the Patriots need a ton of help on offense. Be it a dynamic receiver who can take the top of the defense or a dual-threat tight end capable of filling Rob Gronkowski’s shoes, New England must add something to what was one of the NFL’s most easily defended offenses in 2019.

Well, a player who might be more perfect of a fit than any other reportedly could be available.

The Atlanta Falcons plan to allow tight end Austin Hooper to test free agency, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, citing sources. The news comes as somewhat of a surprise, as the Falcons’ decision to not trade the Pro Bowl tight end during the season seemingly indicated a serious intent to retain Hooper, via either the franchise tag or a long-term contract.

Whether the Patriots are willing to commit the money necessary to sign a player of Hooper’s caliber is anyone’s guess. Hooper also figures to have many suitors, and it’s hard to imagine the cap-crunched Patriots outbidding everyone. Furthermore, only Bill Belichick knows how he intends to attack the free agent market within the context of Tom Brady’s own looming free agency.

Regardless, Hooper would be an ideal addition to New England.

One of the best receiving tight ends in football, Hooper also is a very capable blocker. The Patriots could use the two-time Pro Bowler similar to how they used Gronkowski, even if Hooper isn’t quite in Gronk’s class.

Hooper’s reception, yardage and touchdown totals have increased in each of his four seasons in the NFL. The 25-year-old missed three games last season, but still managed to haul in 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns.

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