We already know that the Chicago Bears are fixin’ to repair their tight end trouble over the course of the offseason, which is why, earlier today, we took a look at the market’s top option, Austin Hooper and how he could fit in Chicago.
And then just like that, Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Bears do, in fact, have eyes for him:
The Bears want to take a big swing in free agency, and they intend to make a run at two-time Pro Bowl TE Austin Hooper–https://t.co/IvBGjOa5Il
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) February 27, 2020
Even though the Bears have salary cap related spending limitations – and are just two offseason removed from paying Trey Burton a bunch of money – a source has informed Lieser that the Bears are angling to make a run at Hooper.
And with good reason.
Hooper, a two-time Pro Bowl tight end with experience at both the “Y” and “U” positions, was a quality pass-catcher and serviceable blocker during is time in Atlanta. Considering the Bears’ need at a position that ultimately proved to be of the utmost importance to a successful offense, this front office would be in the right to chase after someone with Hooper’s credentials and upside.
Earlier in the week, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff made it known that Hooper would be allowed to reach free agency without any restrictions – and in case you missed that post, that means no tags (Franchise or Transition), nor a last-ditch effort to re-sign him before free agency opens up in March. And that, in turn, opens up the door for a team like the Bears to swoop in and plug an obvious fit into their system.
If the price is right, of course.
The Bears aren’t going to be the only team in the hunt for Hooper’s services. He has everything teams seek in pending free agents — youth (he’s just 25 and won’t turn 26 until November), previous production (did we mention the back-to-back Pro Bowl years?), and upside (that comes with being on the younger side of the free agent aging curve). But the matter of cost could be a hang-up.
OverTheCap.com estimates that the Bears will have $24,230,111 in available cap space once Kyle Long’s contract comes off the books. The site also projects Hooper to get a deal that could pay him more than $10 million per season over the course of four years. It’s a projected contract that could be worth up to $40.5 million and include $21 million in guarantees. That’s a hefty chunk of contractual change. But could it be worth it? Absolutely.
Even though the Bears already have Burton at a cap number of $8.5 million in 2020, it shouldn’t stop the team from kicking the tires on its options elsewhere and pursuing a clear upgrade at such an important position. Although it’s important to note that in his report, Lieser sees the Bears as a long shot to win any such bidding war. But in a period when desperate times call for desperate measures, it could ultimately be a risk worth taking.
Eyeing Potential Bears Free Agent Targets: Tight End Austin Hooperhttps://t.co/aFS6ZumPUb
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) February 27, 2020