Browns reportedly agree to terms with TE Austin Hooper, though Hooper says his options are open

Frank Schwab
·2 min read

The Cleveland Browns obviously knew what they wanted.

Not even an hour after the so-called legal tampering period began in NFL free agency on Monday, the Browns had a deal with former Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. NFL Network reported the team and player agreed to terms to make Hooper the NFL’s highest-paid tight end.

Rapoport said Hooper will make $42 million over four seasons, with $23 million fully guaranteed over the first two years.

However, Hooper hedged that news in a quote to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, saying, "I'm definitely leaning Cleveland. Unless something comes up unexpected, then no question Cleveland is the leader."

Since no free agents can officially sign until Wednesday, the Browns will have a nervous couple days until Hooper signs.

Tight end Austin Hooper (81) did not confirm that he has agreed to terms with the Browns. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tight end Austin Hooper (81) did not confirm that he has agreed to terms with the Browns. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

No signings can be official until Wednesday

The legal tampering period is a catch-22 for teams.

Clubs have negotiated before the start of free agency forever. Giving teams a 48-hour window to do it legally before free agency officially begins protects them against tampering charges, and gives franchises a more clear idea of their offseason plans.

However, since nothing can be official until Wednesday, there are no guarantees.

Players have backed out of deals. The most notable example might be linebacker Anthony Barr, who agreed to terms with the New York Jets, then had a change of heart and re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings last year. There’s nothing stopping a situation like that.

And there’s nothing stopping Hooper from continuing to field calls until Wednesday.

Austin Hooper would be a good fit in Cleveland

If Hooper sticks to the plan, the Browns offense would get a nice addition.

Hooper improved every season with the Falcons and has made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons. Last season he had 75 catches, 787 yards and six touchdowns. While he’s not the best tight end in the NFL, the others ahead of him weren’t on the open market. The Browns clearly wanted him and were willing to pay big to land him.

Hooper’s comments could invite other teams to pick up the phone and call his agent, if they wish. The Browns will be happy if and when Hooper signs on Wednesday.

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