Austin Hooper is a huge signing for the Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee Titans have found their starting tight end thanks to the Cleveland Browns, and they got him on a steal of a deal.

Austin Hooper is a great reminder that drafting a tight end high in the NFL Draft is a waste of resources. Hooper was a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but it didn’t take him long to prove that he was worth as much as any first-round pick.

Once his rookie contract was up, Hooper hit free agency as a two-time Pro Bowl tight end. Unfortunately, he ended up signing a big deal with the Cleveland Browns before the 2020 season, and he suffered the same fate as a lot of other skill players for the Browns.

Whether you look at Hooper, Jarvis Landry, or Odell Beckham, it was clear that the talent in Cleveland wasn’t matching up with the production on the field. The Browns have all but admitted that Baker Mayfield was the problem there when they moved heaven and earth to trade for Deshaun Watson.

The long and the short of it is that the Browns were collecting pieces on offense and it honestly worked for a year, but after Mayfield burnt bridges with Odell Beckham and the organization felt like they needed a full overhaul, Hooper was quietly cut to create cap space for the blockbuster trade.

How he helps the Tennessee Titans

That is a brief history of how Austin Hooper hit the market, but how does Hooper help the Titans?

Hooper is one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL, but that got muddled with so many mouths to feed in Cleveland. In fact, it never made much sense to have a 1st round draft pick (David Njoku) AND one of the most expensive tight ends in the NFL in the same offense when they both ate into the other’s market share.

Going back to his time in Atlanta, Hooper was the TE1 for two years for the Falcons. Over that two-year stretch, he had 146 receptions, 1,447 yards, and 10 touchdowns. If he is featured like he was with Atlanta, then he could be the best receiving tight end that the Titans have had since Delanie Walker.

Coming out of Stanford in college, Hooper was an adequate blocker just like every other tight end that comes out of Stanford. While he isn’t George Kittle in the run game, he has plenty of functional strength and is an above-average blocker.

Another big plus is that he has spent plenty of time inline, but he also has the versatility (and experience) to line up in the slot and win there as well.

Hooper isn’t perfect and he isn’t going to shock anyone with YAC ability, but he can make contested catches, block well, and line up in multiple positions. He is the ideal TE1 for a team that wants to be a run-first team and then takes advantage of defenses that go with heavy personnel to counter that.

That is something that the Tennessee Titans desperately needed and is the first great move of the offseason for the GM Jon Robinson.