Patriots will have chance to make run at free agent TE Austin Hooper

Ryan Hannable
February 28, 2020 - 9:24 am

It's quite clear the biggest need for the Patriots this offseason is tight end.

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The team is so thin at the position that it may take acquiring a player via free agency as well as in the draft to help fully address the position. Unfortunately, it isn't the strongest free agent class, or even draft class, but one of the biggest free agents to be likely will be available -- Falcons tight end Austin Hooper.

Earlier in the week at the NFL Combine, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff said the organization will let Hooper, and other free agents, hit the open market.

“This does not necessarily close the door on their time with the Falcons and we fully intend on negotiating with them in the free agency period as we work through our roster-building scenarios,” he said. “Oftentimes you have to look at what the market is to determine whether you’re willing, as an organization, to step up and pay those players a certain amount of money.”

Hooper then posted to Instagram Thursday a picture that seemed to indicate he's preparing to leaving Atlanta.

Some believed the Falcons would make sure he wouldn't hit the free agent market by either re-signing him, or hitting him with the franchise tag.

So, what does this mean, especially for the Patriots?

It means they, along with 31 other teams, can begin talking with him on March 16 when the legal tampering window opens. Given the market isn't that great at the position, it's likely he will demand a ton of money and that isn't something the Patriots typically like doing. But, given how big the need is and limited options, maybe the Patriots will over pay for him to help bolster the offense. He is certainly a player to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Hooper is coming off the best season in his four year career, as he hauled in 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games last year.

Related: Usain Bolt breaks down Tom Brady’s Combine 40