The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Could This Free Agent Be the Cardinals Biggest Splash?

Welcome back to the church of Build the Lines. As a devout believer in the necessity for the Arizona Cardinals to pour resources into the offensive and defensive lines this off season, I feel guilt for even suggesting they deviate from such a plan.

But there is a name floating around the Cardinals that isn't an offensive or defensive lineman but would still get a stamp of approval from the high priest of improved line play.

According to Tony Pauline of the Pro Football Network and a long time NFL/NFL Draft insider, the Cardinals are rumored at the Senior Bowl to be pursuing Falcons TE Austin Hooper.

And oh man, does that make a ton of sense.

The Cardinals were victimized repeatedly by EVERY tight end on their schedule this year so its only natural they would understand the value of a play making TE.

Hooper had 75 catches for 787 yards and 6 TD's last year in just 13 games. Those stats ranked 5th, 6th and 4th respectively among all NFL TE's, despite missing 3 full games.

He also had 8 catches for 118 yards and a TD in a loss to the Cardinals and if it wasn't for a missed extra point by Matt Bryant, Hooper was the odds on favorite to win the game for the Falcons in Glendale because he couldn't be stopped in the second half.

Just look at the Super Bowl for the importance of the TE position. George Kittle and Travis Kelce are difference makers at the highest level for the two best teams in the league.

Baltimore, New Orleans, Los Angeles and even the Patriots all showed the sky rocketing importance having a high end TE in the current NFL.

A big, athletic TE is the quickest passing game hack in the NFL. Its been easier to find play making TE's who act like jumbo sized #1 WR's than it is to find defensive players who can cover them.

Kyler Murray needs receiving help. Some Cardinals fans want him to be reunited with CeeDee Lamb at #8 overall in the draft. The problem is this draft is FULL of WR's and the Cardinals absolutely need upgrades at OL/DL more urgently.

By signing Hooper, the Cardinals could give Murray the reliable receiving mismatch the offense desperately needs without having to use the #8 overall pick or overpaying for a mediocre free agent wide receiver.

Financially, it will cost slightly more than David Johnson.

Hooper is likely to get a deal between $10-$12 million per year, resetting the market for tight ends. Atlanta would love to keep him but currently only has a projected $6 million in cap space.

The Cardinals have been laughably bad at tight end for their entire Arizona existence. Rob Housler is their franchise leader in receiving yards by a TE of all TE's to play their entire career in Phoenix.

Its time to change history and change the offense and Austin Hooper can do both.

Even if it means the lines don't get QUITE as much attention as I would like, it would be worth it.

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