The Cleveland Browns got Baker Mayfield a big new weapon this offseason, and it sounds like no time was wasted between the two in terms of getting to know each other.
New Browns tight end Austin Hooper said Wednesday that he stayed with Mayfield at the quarterback’s Texas home for several weeks during the offseason, where the two got in practice reps and also spent time together doing leisure activities.
“I was in contact with Baker before I signed,” Hooper said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “At the end of the day, that’s how it works, to be honest with you. You want to get a feel for the person you’re going to work with. I told him that I like to work, do stuff in the offseason. He was ready, more than willing.
“I was staying at Baker’s house for like 2-3 weeks. We had a good time when we were practicing and when we weren’t practicing. I definitely think that was the initial spark that really helped our chemistry.”
This may be some of that quiet offseason leadership we’ve heard about from Mayfield. It certainly counts as going above and beyond what would reasonably be expected of a quarterback.
Hooper got a huge contract to join the Browns after catching six touchdowns for the Atlanta Falcons last season. This kind of rapport with his quarterback should help the 25-year-old live up to the expectations that come with that kind of money.
The top tight end on the free agent market did not last long.
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to terms with tight end Austin Hooper. The deal will make Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.
Hooper is coming off something of a breakout season with the Atlanta Falcons. He caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns in 2019, becoming a key red zone target for Matt Ryan.
Hooper adds to Cleveland’s weapons, especially since it looks like they’re keeping a big one in the fold. They are determined to field a dynamic offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski next season, and they’re paying Hooper big time to do it.
Every year, we see NFL players across the league come into their own despite not having much of a track record. They can be all types; many are second- or third-year players who have matured and overcome injury or adapted to the NFL. There are others who were never highly-touted but find themselves in the right situation.
Each NFL team has breakout candidates. Here is a leading candidate from all of them.
Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB
The 13th overall pick in last year’s draft flashed potential and appeared in all 16 games, but only started three of them. He still made an impact, with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. The Cardinals plan to move him to inside linebacker, where he’s been studying tape of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. That bodes well for a big year two breakout.
Atlanta Falcons — Austin Hooper, TE
Year three could be the one that sees Hooper mature into a big target at tight end. His numbers improved last season, as he caught 49 passes and scored three touchdowns. A more prominent role and regular playing time could await him in 2018 and make him a Matt Ryan favorite. He’ll just have to compete with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Atlanta’s talented running backs for touches.