Kyle Shanahan has chased Austin Hooper in the past, is now finally the time the 49ers play with two talented tight ends with Hooper and George Kittle?
Two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers made a run at veteran tight end Austin Hooper, as head coach Kyle Shanahan tried to craft an offense based around two talented tight ends.
Hooper elected to take a big offer from the Cleveland Browns, but it was clear from that point onwards that Shanahan was coveting a scheme that would allow him to utilize two different mismatches at tight end.
Finding that second tight end is something Shanahan has attempted for a while now.
Fast forward to the present day, and Hooper is going to be back on the NFL free agency list, as the Cleveland Browns are electing to cut him with a post-June 1 designation to save cap space.
Hooper didn’t hit the heights in Cleveland that he did with the Atlanta Falcons, but that could be all the better for the Niners if Shanahan still covets another tight end.
San Francisco has done some work to get under the salary cap. Tight end George Kittle, defensive tackle Arik Armstead and EDGE Dee Ford all restructured their contracts, which allows the 49ers some leeway as they look to be a factor in the second wave of free agency.
Hooper may have been a disappointment at Cleveland, but this only allows the Niners a chance to lure him in for cheap to be an excellent second tight end and be another weapon for quarterback Trey Lance.
Tight end isn’t exactly the biggest need this offseason, but surrounding Lance with as many weapons as possible is. Hooper will take some of the pressure and attention off of Kittle and allow Shanahan the license to design his scheme around both tight ends.
If the desire is still there, don’t be surprised if Hooper is donning the red and gold come 2022. The interest is there, and it could add an extra dimension to an offense that fell just short of the Super Bowl last season.