The Indianapolis Colts have declined safety Malik Hooker’s fifth-year option, worth $6.7 million, for 2021.
Hooker was GM Chris Ballard’s first draft pick with the Colts organization back in 2017. Injuries and inconsistent play have been the two big knocks on the Ohio State product throughout his first three seasons.
The Athletic’s Stephen Holder joined The Ride with JMV to give his take on what this move means for Hooker’s future in Indy.
“It tells me [the Colts] want to see more,” Holder said. “I think we all agree, he hasn’t been the player that they sold him as when they drafted him.”
“The last couple years, I want to be clear, he’s only missed five total games in ’18 and ’19, so it’s not a ton. He had the first year – he missed ten games. The last couple years he missed five games [combined]. I think to offset that, you have to play really well, and he hasn’t done that. He’s kinda played sort of average, right? I think when you factor all that in together, they are not sold yet.”
Hooker has compiled 119 tackles and seven interceptions in 36 games as a Colt. Holder thinks the potential production at a $6.7 million valuation should’ve been enough to pick up his option. But the Colts may want to see what Hooker does when the chips are down.
“I think there is some value to seeing a guy perform under pressure, and perform when his butt’s on the line,” Holder said. “[Hooker]’s gonna have to work for it…If we don’t see the best of Malik Hooker in 2020, then maybe he’s never gonna be that.”
JMV sees this as the beginning of the end for Hooker in blue and white:
“I find it hard to believe that all of a sudden [Hooker] is gonna catch fire in the bottle and he’s gonna be back here with a contract extension after this year, and the same with Marlon Mack…These are just two guys that, to me, appear that they’re gonna have a final season here in Indy in 2020.”
If this is indeed Hooker’s last ride in Indy, is third round pick Julian Blackmon his direct successor at free safety?
“If you go back to the ‘With The Next Pick’ videos the Colts have been running…they give you a clip of Chris Ballard talking about Julian Blackmon and in it he says – he’s effusive in his praise – and he says specifically, ‘I just think this guy could be a great free safety in the NFL.’ And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Huh, I wonder if Malik Hooker has seen this?’ Because he’s the free safety,” Holder told JMV.
“[The Colts] weren’t shy about it. They drafted Julian Blackmon, potentially, to be a free safety. He can play other spots, don’t get me wrong, so they can coexist if they need to. But it tells you what they think about that kid and what they project for him.”
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