Austin Hooper is primed to cash in this offseason, but is he worth a massive payday?
Hooper is expected to be one of the more sought-after offensive players when NFL free agency officially begins March 18. It was a bit surprising when the Falcons a few weeks ago made it abundantly clear they weren’t going to place the franchise tag on Hooper nor try to work out a long-term extension. Perhaps Atlanta was onto something, as an ESPN.com story tabbed Hooper as the most overrated tight end bound for the open market.
“Hooper notched 787 receiving yards last season with Atlanta, and while his overall PFF grade of 78.3 was certainly respectable, there is cause for concern in how that grade was produced,” Pro Football Focus writer Sam Monson wrote for ESPN.com. “Much of his production came through simply taking what defenses gave him, but when he was targeted against single coverage, his grade dropped to just 66.5, almost 30 points lower than the league’s better receiving tight ends.”
Even if Hooper isn’t a worldbeater, he’s probably still the best option this offseason for the Patriots, who are in dire need of tight end help. The TE group in this year’s draft class isn’t very strong and one of the other top tight ends eligible for free agency, Hunter Henry, seems like a logical candidate for the Los Angeles Chargers’ franchise tag. Furthermore, at least one NFL analyst believes Hooper would be an “ideal scheme fit” in Foxboro.
Money talks, though, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Patriots are outbid for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.