Welcome to Music City Miracles’ Tennessee Titans 2023 NFL Free Agency Primer! Free agency is set to begin on March 15th, but the Titans are able to re-sign their own free agents before then. New general manager Ran Carthon and head coach Mike Vrabel have already begun collaborating on their vision for the 2023 Titans. Carthon and Vrabel will collaborate on various sizable decisions.
The Titans currently possess 25 free agents (20 unrestricted), including several key starters and role players. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take an in-depth look at each free agent and provide arguments for why the Titans should, or shouldn’t re-sign that player. We’ll also offer our final verdict and a prediction to go along with our analysis.
Today, we’re analyzing starting tight end Austin Hooper.
Name: Austin Hooper
Position: Tight End
Current Age: 28
Why the Titans should re-sign Hooper: Austin Hooper signed a one-year contract with the Titans ahead of the 2022 campaign and brought some much-needed stability to the position. Hooper served as a calming presence for both Ryan Tannehill and rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. Okonkwo is Tennessee’s lone notable tight end under contract through 2023. Both Hooper and Geoff Swaim are set to reach free agency.
Okonkwo flashed starting tight end potential, but the Titans should still pair him with a reliable veteran. Hooper was just that, having recorded 41 receptions for 44 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Re-signing Hooper would bring continuity to Tennessee’s offense in 2023.
Why the Titans should let Hooper walk: Hooper failed to meet expectations as a Titan. Most Titans fans were expecting 50-plus receptions, 500-plus receiving yards and four-plus touchdowns. Hooper didn’t reach any of those marks. The Titans didn’t get good bang-for-their-buck out of Hooper, who began showing signs of decline. It’s worth acknowledging Hooper two or less receptions and 20 receiving yards or less in eight of his regular-season appearances. That’s hardly the impact the Titans were expecting out of Hooper.
Projected Contract: Spotrac is projecting Hooper to sign a two-year contract worth $13.4 million million ($6.7 million annually). That would be approximately $700,000 more than the Titans paid Hooper in 2022. I’d be surprised if Hooper parlayed his 2022 performance into a pay raise in 2023 (and potentially beyond). I personally project Hooper to sign a short-term contract worth $4-5 million annually.
Final verdict: The Titans should allow Hooper to test the open market. Hooper didn’t meet Tennessee’s expectations and Okonkwo appears primed to take a sizable step forward as a crucial sophomore performer in Tim Kelly’s offense. Hooper shouldn’t return to the Titans.
Prediction: Hooper was a late-wave Jon Robinson signing following his release from the Cleveland Browns. I think Vrabel and Carthon will travel in a different direction. It simply didn’t work out between Hooper and the Titans. Let bygones be bygones.
What are your thoughts? Should the Titans re-sign Hooper? Leave your opinion in the comments.