Austin Hooper improved in each of his four seasons with the Falcons, and he was among the very best tight ends in the NFL until he sustained a knee injury in Week 10 against the Saints. Hooper, who just turned 25 this season, is an unrestricted free agent and likely to garner a lot of attention.
It remains to be seen whether the Falcons will make a strong push to retain their former third-round draft pick who made the Pro Bowl in 2018, but the team doesn't appear to have much cap space to work with. Still, Hooper has proven to be a good player and he wouldn't mind remaining in Atlanta.
"I obviously would like to be here," Hooper said. "I'm open to coming back here. I haven't received an offer yet. If I do, I'd definitely like to be here. But, at the same time, it's a business. So, I'm going to let my representation and the representation of the Falcons handle that."
Hooper is among a number of veteran players the Falcons will have to make decisions about. Atlanta has also invested heavily in its core group of players in recent offseasons, making Julio Jones and Matt Ryan the highest-paid players at their position at the time of signing as well as rewarding Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett with new deals.
The Falcons may yet decide Hooper should remain a part of their core for the future and find a way to make a new contract financially possible. With no offer on the table yet, however, it's unclear how far along in talks the two sides are.
Hooper finished the year with career-high numbers across the board. Despite missing three games, he caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to his injury, Hooper was tied for the league lead among tight ends in receptions and touchdowns. He finished the year tied for the fourth-most touchdowns among tight ends; Hooper also had the fifth-most receptions and the sixth-most receiving yards.
"It was cool leading the league for a little bit," Hooper said. "And then I got hurt and saw all of my stuff go away, but it's the reality of the sport. People get hurt; all I could do from there is when I was back on the field try to bounce back as best I could, and I feel like I did that."