Amid all the NFL Scouting Combine craziness, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Tuesday afternoon in Indianapolis that standout tight end Austin Hooper will hit the free-agent market, along with outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer.
While Hooper, Campbell and Schweitzer will test the free-agent water, Dimitroff added it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re shipping out of Atlanta.
"This does not necessarily close the door on their time with the Falcons and we fully intend on negotiating with them in the free agency period as we work through our roster-building scenarios," Dimitroff said, via the team website. "Oftentimes you have to look at what the market is to determine whether you’re willing, as an organization, to step up and pay those players a certain amount of money."
Hooper hitting the market is likely to command a plethora of suitors as the talented two-time Pro Bowler is coming off back-to-back seasons of 70-plus receptions. The 25-year-old former third-round selection had career-highs of 75 catches, 787 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2019 despite playing in 13 games due to injury problems.
A top-35 free agent via NFL.com, Hooper has been a huge asset for quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense as the athletic pass-catcher has buoyed production over the middle and given Ryan another excellent option to offset Julio Jones.
While Hooper is the high-profile potential departure, Campbell (No. 81 NFL.com free agent) could possibly be a huge loss for the Falcons, as he led the team with 129 tackles in 2019 — his fourth season with the franchise. Like his tackles, Campbell’s tackles for loss (six), forced fumbles (three) and interceptions (two) were career-highs.
The 26-year-old Schweitzer started seven games in 2019 and has started 36 in total over three seasons.
Thus, three key contributors for the Falcons are out the door and off to free agency. Though the Falcons GM says the door isn’t shut on them returning, the possibilities are abundant of 31 other teams welcoming them.
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