The Cleveland Browns will release tight end Austin Hooper after two seasons with the team, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Hooper had a cap hit of $9.5 million in the third of a four year deal this season and the Browns will save that money by releasing him with a post-June 1 designation. Hooper will now be ready for teams ready to take a chance on the two-time Pro Bowler.
The main reason for Hooper’s release is that his production has dipped over those two seasons with Cleveland. After two Pro Bowl seasons in Atlanta in 2018 and 2019, his receptions and receiving yards dropped by a big margin. In 2019, Hooper caught 75 catches for 786 yards, but that dropped to 46 catches for 435 yards in 2020 and then to 38 catches for 345 yards in 2021.
The Browns appear to be dedicating their tight end future to David Njoku, who got franchise tagged recently and the team and player appear to be in contact for a long term contract in the future. Njoku outperformed Hooper this season, catching 36 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns, making it an easier decision for the Browns to make.
Cleveland also has Harrison Bryant at tight end, who plays a key role in their offense and can slide into Hooper’s role easily, while the team is able to cut salary cap. The team will likely look for a much cheaper tight end in free agency, or even the draft, as head coach Kevin Stefanski likes to play with a three tight end system.