Even though players can’t officially sign and join new organizations until Wednesday, March 18 when the new league year officially begins, the legal tampering period kicked off Monday at noon. During that legal tampering period, players can agree to terms with new teams.
Breaking the ice, free agent tight end Austin Hooper has reportedly agreed to join the Browns and new head coach Kevin Stefanski.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2020
Austin Hooper Career Stats
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Hooper’s usage and per game production has risen in each of his first four seasons in the league. He closed the 2019 season as the TE6 in overall points scored in PPR formats, but ranked third at the position in points per game behind only Travis Kelce and George Kittle. With low marks in average depth of target and yards per catch, Hooper has been more valuable in point per reception formats, but was still the TE7 overall and the TE4 in points per game (8.9 points) in standard formats.
Hooper will play alongside Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, but Hooper is no stranger to sharing targets, playing alongside the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, and pass-catching backs over his first four seasons. But overall volume could be compromised in the change from Atlanta offense to the Cleveland one.
If Stefanski is going to run a similar scheme to the one that he did while with the Vikings last season, overall play volume could crop up as a deterrent to his overall target numbers. Atlanta led the NFL with 45.9 pass plays per game last season while Minnesota was 31st (30.9) and Cleveland was 20th (36.3).
That said, Hooper will have no issue playing a plethora snaps and remain a viable fantasy target at a soft tight end position. What this does do is impact the potential fourth-year breakout for David Njoku.
Njoku will enter the 2020 season in the final year of his rookie contract. The addition of Hooper thwarts Njoku from ascending the Cleveland depth chart and becoming a fantasy viable option, but he can still find the field. Minnesota used two tight end sets on 47% of their pass plays last season, which trailed only the Eagles (50%).