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Should Dallas Cowboys Target Free Agent TE Austin Hooper?

On the offensive side of the football, the Dallas Cowboys have few needs to address. It’s expected that they’ll reach agreements with Quarterback Dak Prescott and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. There’s a strong possibility that slot receiver Randall Cobb is back thanks to his connection with Dak Prescott and new Head Coach Mike McCarthy. The offensive line will return all five starters from a year ago and have really good depth in place.

All that’s left is the tight end position.

With Jason Witten expected to be looking for a new team in 2020, there’s potential that the Dallas Cowboys could be in the tight end market either in free agency or the draft. Currently, only Dalton Schultz is under contract, though Blake Jarwin is a restricted free agent. Per a report yesterday, Jarwin and the Cowboys have begun talks on a contract extension that would keep him with the team.

Jane Slater on Twitter

With Jason Witten’s future with the #Cowboys in question, Dallas has already spoken with several tight end prospects in Indianapolis per a source informed. Dallas is also expected to begin talks this week in Indy on restricted free agent Blake Jarwin’s return to the team.

Blake Jarwin isn’t a perfect tight end, but he should have and could have been on the field more in 2019. If the Cowboys don’t make any moves this offseason to upgrade at that position, he will be the starter come September. And while his blocking is a work in progress, there’s no denying he’s a dynamic weapon in the passing game.

Underutilized, but not underrated. He’s an good player.

Jarwin is a really good player, but there’s an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to solidify the position in free agency with news coming down yesterday that the Atlanta Falcons are expecting to allow Tight End Austin Hooper to test the free agency when it opens on March 18th.

Hooper, a fourth year player who has played in a possible 59 out of 64 games and started just 28 of them (17 over the last two seasons) broke out over the last couple of years and had a career year in 2019 despite playing just 13 games.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Game Game Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Age Tm No. G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD 1D Lng Ctch% Y/Tgt Fmb
2016 22 ATL 81 14 3 27 19 271 14.3 3 16 44 70.4% 10.0 0
2017 23 ATL 81 16 8 65 49 526 10.7 3 18 88 75.4% 8.1 0
2018* 24 ATL 81 16 7 88 71 660 9.3 4 30 36 80.7% 7.5 0
2019* 25 ATL 81 13 10 97 75 787 10.5 6 41 35 77.3% 8.1 0
Care Care 59 28 277 214 2244 10.5 16 105 88 77.3% 8.1 0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2020.

In fewer games in 2019, Hooper surpassed the previous career highs that he set in 2018 and was on a pace to catch 92 passes on 119 targets (77.3%) and 7 touchdowns. He was fifth in the NFL among tight ends in receptions and sixth in yards. Though he only played 13 games, he still finished sixth in the NFL in first down receptions at the position while only having two drops attributed to his stat sheet.

Not only is he a player that can line up as the in-line tight end, but he can play in the slot too. In 2019 45.7% of his targets came when he lined up in the slot.

If there’s a downside to his game, it’s that he wasn’t targeted much down the field. That could be due to usage or related to his ability. Per Pro Football Focus, only one tight end with more than 50 targets on the season saw fewer targets more than 20 yards down the field; Jason Witten.

Among tight ends with at least 26 targets on the season, was 30th in the NFL in yards after the catch per reception at 4.3. Though it was better than Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, and Jason Witten, is was behind Blake Jarwin who finished 18th in the NFL at 5.1 yards after the catch per reception.

There’s no doubt that Austin Hooper is a really good player. At a reasonable price, I’d be all for the Dallas Cowboys taking a run at him in free agency. However, he’s not a player that I’m willing to break the bank for when you have a dynamic pass-catching threat available in Blake Jarwin.

There are options in free agency for the Dallas Cowboys to pursue at tight end if they want some insurance for Blake Jarwin and Austin Hooper might be one of them. Given Stephen Jones’ comments yesterday that the Cowboys will be making the defense a priority this offseason, it’s unlikely they’ll make a play for a big-name tight end like Hooper.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. Not no but hell no. Jarwin is the guy. He blocked better than Witten last year. You can say he isn’t under rated because he has never had a chance to be on the field enough judge.

  2. Hooper is really good and has the potential to be The best TE in the league. He’s a clear upgrade over anybody the Cowboys have. Go get him and don’t look back

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