In a surprising move, the Indianapolis Colts have decided to decline Malik Hooker’s 5th year option, according to NFL’s Ian Rapoport. The decision is one that will make Hooker an unrestricted free agent after the conclusion of the 2020 season.
The #Colts are declining the fifth-year option for S Malik Hooker, source said. He becomes a free agent in 2020 and sets up for a big season. That’s also the last option that hung in the balance for the 2017 draft.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 4, 2020
Some would argue that this move shouldn’t be so shocking, given GM Chris Ballard’s candid comments about Hooker after the conclusion of the 2019 season.
“Malik was solid,” Ballard said after the conclusion of the 2019 season. “Wouldn’t say he was great.”
“He had some moments of being really good. And I thought he tailed off a little bit there at the end,” Ballard added.
Despite only playing seven games during his rookie campaign in 2017, the former first-round pick showed a lot promise, nabbing three interceptions in just those seven games. Keeping that in mind, there’s a reason the Colts expected big things from the ball-hawking safety, especially when many compared him to Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed coming out of Ohio State.
Alas, Hooker hasn’t been able to play a full 16-game slate during his first three season with the Colts, which might’ve led to the declining of his 5th year option. What’s even more important to note, however, is the lack of depth and experience the Colts have behind Hooker at safety.
Aside from soon-to-be second-year safety Khari Willis, the Colts safety depth, highlighted by two undrafted free agents in Rolan Milligan and George Odum, have combined for just 3 starts. And even though the team just spent a 3rd-round pick (85th overall) on Utah safety Julian Blackmon, let’s remember that Blackmon is still recovering from a torn ACL, an injury that will likely sideline him for the majority of the 2020 season.
As of now, the Colts’ succession plan for replacing Hooker is unclear and should be the team’s first priority going into the 2020 off-season. Perhaps former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, a player that the Colts have been linked to having interest in, would be a stop-gap solution for the team until they can figure out how they plan on replacing Hooker.