It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Browns announced they were releasing Austin Hooper on Wednesday morning, freeing space for a Deshaun Watson pursuit
When the Cleveland Browns franchised tagged David Njoku before free agency, the writing was on the wall that Austin Hooper may be on his way out. The former pro-bowl tight end was paid big money in the 2020 offseason to come to the Browns, and things never panned out.
This post-June 1 designation will open the door for Hooper to find a better fit. As hot as the tight end market was, I am surprised that Andrew Berry couldn’t find a trade partner.
The Browns freed up $9.5 million in 2022 with the move, but teams likely weren’t interested in the trade because of the void year in 2024.
After 787 yards and six touchdowns in 2019, things just never clicked in Cleveland. There were costly drops and it felt like he and Baker Mayfield were just never in sync.
Of course, this money coming open in the summer could help as they pursue Deshaun Watson as a replacement for Mayfield.
However, while I do think the Browns have been careful with spending in case they do find a way to land Watson, this wasn’t a move just intended to clear space for him. There was never a scenario where it made sense to have a tight end room eating up over $20 million in cap.
With Kevin Stefanski utilizing two tight ends as much as anyone in the NFL, do expect the Browns to address the situation. A prime target would be O.J. Howard is a former first-round pick that didn’t pan out, which seems to fit the Berry mold perfectly.
You could also see the Browns active in the draft as there are a couple of nice pass-catching guys who will likely be available on day two or three of the 2022 draft.