Austin Hooper will be one of the hottest free agents available, and the New England Patriots should make a strong play for the versatile playmaker.
Last season, the New England Patriots offense was one of the most disappointing units in all of football. Usually known for being innovative and creating nightmarish mismatches for opposing defensive coordinators, the New England offense lacked any sort of firepower, finishing in the bottom half of the league in both passing yards per attempt and rushing yards per attempt.
The Patriots are now in a position where Tom Brady’s future is uncertain for the first time in his illustrious career. If the Pats want to keep him around or, at the very least, want to have a competent supporting cast for his successor, they need to sign a game-changing weapon.
There may not be a better fit in free agency for New England than Austin Hooper.
The Atlanta Falcons tight end will be allowed to test the open market, as stated by general manager Thomas Dimitroff. With teams like the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers reportedly interested in signing the game-changing tight end, Hooper’s price tag won’t be cheap.
But for the Patriots, it would be worth it.
New England failed to adequately replace Rob Gronkowski, and they also lost another playmaker in Josh Gordon. Their response was a mid-season acquisition of former Falcons supplemental receiver Mohamed Sanu, who simply isn’t good enough to move the meter as a top option.
Hooper, on the other hand, is dynamic. He is one of the NFL’s most athletic tight ends and has gotten demonstrably better in each season since being a hyped third-round pick out of Stanford in 2016.
In 2019, Hooper caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Those seem like modest numbers, but they become more impressive when looking at his consistency. Hooper had a catch rate of 77.3% and averaged 8.1 yards per target, playing as the main safety valve for a quarterback who threw 14 interceptions.
Since Julian Edelman’s 65.3% catch rate was the highest among Patriots receivers and tight ends with at least 20 receptions, Hooper’s reliability is that much more appealing.
Brady would benefit immensely from a weapon like Hooper, who can line up in the slot and even out wide to replicate some of the same packages the Patriots ran with Gronkowski. To be sure, Hooper isn’t remotely close to Gronk, but he is a tight end who offers playmaking upside and stability.
The Patriots will be prudent and won’t overpay for Hooper, but they need to throw their proverbial hat into the ring for the star tight end. A top performer at the Combine in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, and bench press, Hooper is the kind of athlete who is just waiting to break out underneath the tutelage of Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Tom Brady.