One of football’s best pass-catching tight ends is expected to take his talents to Cleveland.
The latest from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport suggests as much:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2020
Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Mike Silver have heard from sources that Hooper is signing with the Cleveland Browns. As expected, the deal is expected to reset the tight end market and make Hooper the highest-paid tight end in football. And why not? His production has increased each year as his playing time in the Falcons offense has grown, and he’s got two Pro Bowl appearances in the last two seasons to show for his efforts.
The Bears (and Packers) were once believed to be readying to make a run at Hooper in free agency, but it looks like the Browns simply jumped the market to leap-frog the two NFC North rivals en route to landing the biggest free agent fish at the position.
Of course, free agent deals cannot be signed or finalized until the new league year opens at 3 p.m. CT on Wednesday, which is good to keep in mind because nothing is final until it is final.
Check out this set of tweets:
Austin Hooper just now: "I'm definitely leaning Cleveland. Unless something comes up unexected, then no question Cleveland is the leader."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
The Cleveland Browns are working to close a deal on Austin Hooper, making him the game's highest paid tight end, per source. Other teams can swoop in late but Browns the leader.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 16, 2020
Alright, so it looks like the Browns are the leaders in the clubhouse. But nothing is officially official. And the tweets embedded above leave that window open for other teams to sneak in with a king-maker of an offer that Hooper can’t refuse. We’ll keep tabs on this as the story develops.
UPDATE: The Bears were among the teams to take their shot at Hooper:
SF, Washington, Green Bay, Chicago also made a run https://t.co/FfWAsvevsm
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 16, 2020
That the Bears made a pitch to snag Hooper could suggest the team might be willing to spend some money at the position for the right player. Stay tuned.