Potential Detroit Lions free agent target labeled as a buy-low option

Credit: The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Detroit Lions possibly look for options at a certain position in free agency, a potential free agent target has been labeled as a buy-low candidate.

The Detroit Lions had a top-five scoring and total offense in the NFL this past season. That’s not breaking any news, but they were at that level with red zone production and little else from one skill position for over half the season.

The Lions traded T.J. Hockenson at last season’s deadline, and left a notable hole at tight end. How that void will be filled moving forward is an open question. But there is no question about the general need for a talent upgrade from the combination of Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra.

Free agency below the most expensive guys, or a Day 2/Day 3 draft pick, feels like the path for the Lions to upgrade the tight end depth chart.

Potential Detroit Lions free agent target labeled as a buy-low

Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus has come up with a list of buy-low free agen candidates at each position, one per position. The tight end buy-low is an interesting one from a Lions’ perspective.

"TIGHT END: AUSTIN HOOPER2022 Team: Tennessee Titans2022 PFF Grade: 68.8Hooper delivered in his lone season in Tennessee, recording a career-low 2.4% drop rate. His current contract projection is a two-year, $8.5 million deal, which feels like good value when considering he is a very solid player who has never earned a season-long PFF grade lower than 60.0. Still, Hooper likely sees his interest hindered by a strong tight end group headed for free agency."

Pro Football Reference has Hooper’s drop rate at 1.7 percent for this past season, but the point by McGuiness stands.

Hooper’s numbers haven’t leapt off the page the last three seasons, the one season with the Titans and two before it with the Cleveland Browns. So it’s easy to forget he had back-to-back 70-plus catch, Pro Bowl seasons with the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 and 2019, as a 24 and 25-year old. But it’s also fair to say he hasn’t had a quarterback the level of 2018-2019 Matt Ryan throwing him the ball since he signed a big-money contract with the Browns.

Spotrac has tabbed Hooper’s market value at a two-year, $13.4 million deal, which is a bump up from PFF’s contract projection that McGuinness cited in the vein of offering him as a buy-low candidate.

Split the difference, and a two-year, $10-$11 million deal with $7-8 million guaranteed would be a solid deal for Hooper. And at that price point, the Lions should be all over the idea of signing him.

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