MOBILE, Ala. – One of the biggest storylines for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason is whether or not the team will re-sign Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, who is set to hit free agency when the new league year begins on March 18.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff addressed the status of contract negotiations with Hooper from the Senior Bowl on Tuesday.
"The reality of right now is we are trudging along," Dimitroff said. "After the Super Bowl week, we'll continue to see how we're moving forward. At this point, there's no updates on Austin."
Hooper, 25, has been an instrumental part of the Falcons' offense since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Stanford.
In four years with the Falcons, Hooper has caught 214 passes for 2,224 yards and 16 touchdowns.
After back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, if Hooper were to hit the free agency market, he's likely to be in high demand.
NFL Network inside Mike Garafolo provided his thoughts on what it will take for the Falcons to re-sign Hooper.
"I do know it's going to be a high number," Garofolo said. "It's going to be interesting the trickle-down effect you might see before free agency. I think you're looking at north of $10 million for him which is where the franchise tag will be. I don't think it's a franchise tag situation. Whatever the extension would be it would be right around that number. It might be a tough situation for the Falcons to bring Hooper back because I know there are a lot of teams around the league who look at him as a really talented pass-catcher who would work well in their offense."
If the Falcons are unable to get a deal done by March 18, placing the franchise tag on Hooper is an option but one the Falcons have not "decided on at this point."
Teams are only allowed to tag one player a year and if the Falcons were to place the tag on Hooper it would give the Falcons another year to continue to work on a long-term deal for Hooper.
The franchise tag comes with a price, though.
If the Falcons place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Hooper, Atlanta would have to pay Hooper the average of the top-10 players at his position for one year.
The early projection for the tight end position is $10.7 million, according to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com.