The Facts: Arguably the top tight end to become available in free agency in March, alongside Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry, Hooper is expected to earn a significant pay raise in 2020. Atlanta hopes that it can retain Hooper's services for the foreseeable future, but as of now, the Falcons are not close to re-signing their third-leading receiver. "The reality of right now is we are trudging along," GM Thomas Dimitroff said Tuesday, per 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."
Diehards Line: Hooper turned a contract year into a career year. The Atlanta Falcons tight end logged career highs in receptions (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (6) despite playing just 13 games and will be playing in his second Pro Bowl in four seasons this Sunday. Since entering the league as a third-round selection in 2016, Hooper ranks sixth in receptions (214) and ninth in receiving yards (2,244) and receiving scores (16) among all tight ends. The big-bodied TE has not been very injury-prone, though he did miss three games with a sprained MCL this year. Atlanta could choose to place an estimated $11 million franchise tag on Hooper, but that seems unlikely. The highest-paid tight end in 2020 is currently slated to be Jimmy Graham in Green Bay ($10M). The Falcons cannot tag Hooper until Feb. 25 and have until March 10 to do so. Free agency kicks off eight days later when Hooper could very well be swooped out of Atlanta unless negotiations between his team and the Falcons pick up.