Malik Hooker

Cowboys Expected To Sign S Malik Hooker

Malik Hooker remains in free agency, but the former first-round pick has been connected to multiple teams this offseason. He is paying the Cowboys another visit Friday, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). This second meeting is expected to produce a deal, so long as Hooker proves healthy, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

The Cowboys hosted Hooker, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee in March. Both Neal and Kazee, each of whom former Dan Quinn charges with the Falcons, signed with the Cowboys. Dallas looks set to have all three of those March visitors in uniform soon.

A Ohio State product, Hooker is coming off a season in which he played just two games. He suffered an Achilles tear last September. That affected his market, and Hooker should be expected to use the 2021 season as a springboard to a more lucrative contract down the road.

Hooker also visited the Steelers and Dolphins this year, with his most recent meeting — in Pittsburgh — coming in early June. Shortly after that meeting, Hooker expressed interest in waiting on more teams to enter the equation. Dallas’ re-emergence appears to have satisfied him, and Hooker — if healthy — will have a good chance at earning a starting job.

Dallas has been linked to big-name safeties for years but has resisted. The team signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last year but cut the ex-Packers first-rounder before the season. This year, Quinn has Neal set to play both safety and linebacker; Kazee joins Hooker in coming off a major injury. The Cowboys lost Xavier Woods in free agency but have been aggressive in free agency, adding Jayron Kearse in addition to the March visitors.

Hooker, 25, poses as a low-cost flier who has extensive starter experience. Indianapolis deployed the former No. 15 overall pick as a first-stringer in 35 games. However, Hooker has suffered ACL, MCL and Achilles tears as a pro. This season will be pivotal to determining his path toward future guaranteed dollars.

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Malik Hooker Wants To Take More Visits

Free agent safety Malik Hooker has taken visits with the Cowboys, Dolphins, and Steelers this offseason, but he is still looking for a new home. Dallas has added free agent Damontae Kazee, Miami selected Jevon Holland in the second round of the draft (though the ‘Fins did cut Bobby McCain after the draft), and while Pittsburgh didn’t do much to bolster its safety group, it will return starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.

At this point, those three clubs appear satisfied with their respective safety situations, because Hooker indicated during a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk) that he is hoping to visit with more teams before training camp opens at the end of July.

“There was a couple of teams I visited with that I thought highly of,” Hooker said. “Now, it’s just a matter of taking my time with it. Training camp’s next month, not next week, so I’ve got time to be able to still tune up things and still hopefully go on more visits to see what else teams are talking about. Maybe meet with some teams I’ve met with before hopefully.”

Hooker, whom the Colts selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, has shown plenty of promise in his pro career thus far. Unfortunately, he has also dealt with myriad injury problems. He missed more than half of his rookie season with a torn ACL, battled lesser ailments over the 2018-19 campaigns, and then suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 2 of the 2020 season.

As a result, he understands that he will need to settle for a one-year, “prove-it” contract, though he is obviously hoping for a good scheme fit on a team that will give him a real opportunity to reestablish his value. With respect to his recovery, he said he feels capable of playing right now but still has “little stuff” to work on before he is 100%.

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Steelers Interested In Malik Hooker 

Safety Malik Hooker met with the Steelers on Thursday, according to (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). So far, that’s three known visits for the former first-round pick. 

Hooker should find a home soon, now that we’re beyond May 3rd. From this point forward, teams can sign veterans like Hooker without a negative impact on their compensatory pick formula.

The Ohio State product was plagued by injury trouble throughout his Colts tenure. Still, he showed promise during his healthier stretches. After a seven-game rookie season, Hooker graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 ranked safety in 2018. That year, he suited up for 14 games and notched 44 stops with four passes defensed and two interceptions. Hooker followed that up with 13 games in 2019, but saw his 2020 mostly erased by an Achilles tear.

The Steelers have Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds set to start with Antoine Brooks Jr., Miles Killebrew and seventh-round pick Tre Norwood in the backup mix. The Steelers turned down Edmunds’ fifth-year option for 2022, so there could be a long-term opportunity for Hooker in Pittsburgh, even if he initially inks a one-year deal.

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Dolphins Meet With Malik Hooker

Former Colt Malik Hooker will visit with the Dolphins on Tuesday (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). This marks the first known visit in a while for the one-time first-round safety. 

Now that May 3rd has come and gone, teams will no longer be docked in the compensatory pick formula for signing veterans. Teams have been waiting patiently for that deadline to pass, so players like Hooker are bound to be scooped up in the coming weeks. The Ravens, for example, had been eyeing offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva for weeks. Still, they waited until Tuesday morning to finalize his new two-year deal.

Hooker played out his rookie contract with the Colts, but he’s been plagued by injury trouble throughout his career. He did manage to bounce back from a seven-game rookie season to suit up for 27 regular-season contests from 2018-19, but he was limited to just two games last year. Now, he’s believed to be mostly recovered from his September Achilles tear.

If signed, Hooker will join third-round pick Jevon Holland in the Dolphins’ safety group. For now, the ‘Fins project to start Eric Rowe at strong safety and Bobby McCain at free safety.

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Cowboys To Host Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee

3:23pm: Even after the Cowboys agreed to terms with Neal, they still intend to visit with Hooker and Kazee, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).

1:25pm: Although their Keanu Neal interest may not be for a role as a full-time safety, the Cowboys appear interested in bolstering this position soon. They are set to meet with Malik Hooker and Damontae Kazee, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Despite the latter two defenders being on Dallas’ docket, the team remains in the mix for Neal, Watkins adds. Neal, however, appears to be on the cusp of a position change. Hooker and Kazee would then profile as potential Cowboys replacements for Xavier Woods, though the recent Cowboys starter remains unsigned. And both the safeties set to visit Dallas are coming off severe injuries. Each tore an Achilles’ tendon early last season.

While Hooker played out his rookie contract with the Colts, the Cowboys’ interest in Neal and Kazee certainly makes sense. The Falcons drafted Neal in the 2016 first round and added Kazee in the 2017 fifth round. New Cowboys DC Dan Quinn was the Falcons’ HC for most of the free agent safeties’ respective Atlanta tenures.

Hooker entered the NFL with injury trouble and has not been able to shake those concerns over the course of his career. While the former Colts first-round pick did bounce back from a seven-game rookie season to suit up for 27 regular-season contests from 2018-19, he is coming off a two-game 2020 slate. Hooker suffered his Achilles injury last September.

Neal’s Falcons teammate for four seasons, Kazee delivered a breakthrough season replacing an injured Neal in 2018. Kazee intercepted an NFL-most seven passes and posted 10 passes defensed, and he started 29 games for the Falcons — all in place of Neal, who suffered major injuries in back-to-back seasons — from 2018-19. Kazee’s four-start 2020 screeched to a halt after his October Achilles tear.

The Cowboys have featured a need at safety for years; Woods’ UFA status has now magnified the void at this position. They signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last year but cut him ahead of Week 1. The Cowboys proceeded to allow the most points in franchise history.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 9/22/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Indianapolis Colts

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Colts’ Malik Hooker Suffers Torn Achilles

It’s official. On Monday, Colts safety Malik Hooker was diagnosed with a torn Achilles tendon (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Hooker will be placed on injured reserve and shut down for the remainder of the 2020 season. 

It’s heartbreaking news for Hooker, who has seen his young career derailed by injuries. In 2017, the Ohio State product likely would have been a Top 10 pick. But, with concerns about his surgically-repaired sports hernia and a torn labrum, he fell to the Colts in the middle of the first round. Then, as a rookie, he missed more than half of the season with a torn ACL.

Hooker stayed on the field for much of 2018 and 2019, but he was less than 100%. With questions about his long-term health, the Colts declined Hooker’s fifth-year option in May. Instead of an injury-guaranteed $6.7MM next year, Hooker is now on course for free agency, though he won’t have the strength of a strong platform year to show to teams.

With Hooker out of the picture, the Colts will turn to third-round safety Julian Blackmon for deep-field help. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Hooker will concentrate on rehab.

The Colts advanced to 1-1 with their 28-11 victory over the Vikings on Sunday. Next, they’ll face the Jets with Blackmon making his first career start.

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Colts Fear S Malik Hooker Has Torn Achilles

The hits keep on coming, as we’ve got word of another devastating injury to pass along. The Colts fear safety Malik Hooker has a torn Achilles, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Hooker is an every down player, so this is a big loss for Indianapolis’ defense. A first-round pick out of Ohio State in 2017, Hooker’s pro career has been plagued by injuries. As a rookie he tore his ACL after seven games, and he missed a handful of contests over the past couple years with other minor ailments.

Still only 24, it’s tough to see for the youngster. Colts rookie safety Julian Blackmon, who made his pro debut Sunday after tearing his ACL last December, will be asked to step up. The 2020 third-rounder from Utah played well against the Vikings, and will be a crucial piece of Matt Eberflus’ unit moving forward.

The news is especially brutal for Hooker, since the Colts declined the fifth-year option on his contract back in May. That means he’ll be a free agent after this season, and he won’t be fully healthy by the time the market opens. He’s obviously still quite young, but he might have to settle for a cheap prove-it deal due to his now extensive injury history.

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Colts To Decline Malik Hooker’s Option

The Colts will decline the fifth-year option on Malik Hooker‘s contract, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (on Twitter). With that, Hooker is set to be a free agent following the 2020 season. 

It’s a surprising decision – Hooker has seven career interceptions in just 34 games played and his would-be 2021 salary wasn’t prohibitive. Hooker, who was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 draft, would have cost $6.7MM to cuff for ’21, and that sum would have been guaranteed for injury only.

After Haason Reddick‘s option was (predictably) declined by the Cardinals, Hooker was left standing as the only 2017 first-round pick in limbo. The Colts waited right until the deadline to render their verdict and it’s a puzzling one. To be fair: Hooker has been hampered by injuries over the years. To be critical, again: He still offers tons of potential and he might just price himself out of Indianapolis with a big prove-it year.

Hooker likely would have been a Top 10 pick three years ago if not for injuries. With concerns about his surgically-repaired sports hernia and a torn labrum, the Colts landed him in the middle of the first round. And, as a rookie, he missed more than half of the season with a torn ACL. He hasn’t met all of his combine week expectations as a pro, but he still has time on his side. The Ohio State product just turned 24 in April and there are plenty of teams who would be happy to have him when he turns 25.

For now, the Colts’ safety group includes Hooker, rising sophomore Khari Willis, third-round pick Julian Blackmon, George Odum, and Rolan Milligan. Of that group, only Willis is under contract beyond ’20.

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AFC South Notes: Hooker, Funchess, Lee

Colts safety Malik Hooker will be back in the lineup for the first time since Week 3, according to Mike Chappell of Fox 59. Hooker was close to returning last week against the Texans, but instead was held out to allow for a completely recovery. Now, per the report, Hooker is “a full go.”

Hooker had damaged his meniscus in Week 3 against the Falcons and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, right in line with a return this week. Coming off an impressive victory over Houston, the Colts are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South at 4-2 and will be happy to get a starter back in their secondary.

Here is some more news from around the AFC South:

  • Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters that wide receiver Devin Funchess should return to practice next week, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.com. Funchess was placed on injured reserve after suffering a clavicle injury in the team’s season opener. The Colts signed Funchess to a one-year, $10MM contract this offseason, but have yet to reap much on-field production for their signing. Prior to the injury, Funchess had three receptions for 32 yards.
  • The Jaguars expect a wide receiver of their own, Marqise Lee, to be back next week according to head coach Doug Marrone, via John Oesher of Jaguars.com. Lee missed all of 2018 with a torn-ACL, but had a strong track-record of success from 2017-2018, where he accumulated 119 receptions for 1,553 receiving yards. In his return this season, Lee was beginning to work his way into the rotation when he came down with an ankle injury that has had him out since Week 6.