Falcons to let TE Austin Hooper, others test free agency

INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said tight end Austin Hooper, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer will hit the open market as unrestricted free agents, but he didn't rule out re-signing any of them.

"We've talked to them, we've had discussions, and after all is said and done, we're going to let them get to the market to find out where they are in the market,'' Dimitroff said Tuesday at the NFL combine. "That's a really important piece for both parties.

"Of course, we want them back. We'll continue to negotiate with those players, but it's imperative that we see what the market holds for them. That will gauge how we approach it. As you know, we have a salary-cap situation that we're monitoring closely. And that's important for us to know exactly where we feel the market is before we make any very solid offers and discussions as far as making agreements on compensation.''

Hooper had a career-best 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing three games with an MCL sprain. Dimitroff said the franchise tag -- which is projected to be around $10.7 million for tight ends -- remains an option with Hooper.

Hooper, Campbell and Schweitzer would become free agents March 18. Their agents can enter negotiations with other teams beginning March 16.

If Hooper signs elsewhere, the Falcons might have to consider drafting a tight end. Undrafted Jaeden Graham filled in nicely for Hooper last season, but he remains relatively unproven.

Campbell was the team's leading tackler last season and a player known for covering tight ends. Third-year player Foye Oluokun may play a larger role if Campbell departs in free agency.

Schweitzer, who plays guard and center, has 36 career starts over four seasons. The Falcons are likely to address the guard position in free agency or the draft regardless of Schweitzer's status.

In other news, the Falcons appear unlikely to pick up the fifth-year option of defensive end Takk McKinley, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. McKinley, the 26th overall pick in the 2017 draft, will enter his fourth season with 16.5 career sacks.