INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The next significant date on the NFL’s offseason calendar is Monday, May 4. On that date, teams must decide whether or not to exercise the 5th year option for first round picks selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
For the Colts, that’s safety Malik Hooker.
Being a first round pick in the NFL Draft comes with pride, prestige, as well as something no other draft pick gets. From the second round on, all draftees receive four-year contracts. First round pick deals however, are also given a team option to add a fifth year to that deal.
Malik Hooker was Chris Ballard’s first draft pick with the Colts after taking over as General Manager in 2017. From the very beginning, Ballard recognized Hooker’s potential, calling him the best athlete in the entire draft and saying Hooker could take the ball away.
Hooker proved Ballard right in his rookie year with interceptions in three straight games, but a torn ACL ended the young safety’s season, and Hooker has had just four interceptions total in two years since.
Hooker is currently under contract for the 2020 season, but the Colts option for 2021 is due Monday. The question for Chris Ballard becomes: Is Hooker worth that fifth year on his rookie contract? The answer must be weighed with a not-so-short list of injuries. Hooker had hip and hernia surgery before his rookie season, then during his Colts career add that ACL/MCL tear in 2017, another hip injury and a foot injury in 2018, and a torn meniscus in 2019. The answer must also be weighed with other factors, including the facts that Hooker is only 24 years old, and he’s still mighty athletic and rangy.
Hooker’s fifth year would also be not ridiculously expensive, and the Colts do have cap space. Still, Chris Ballard is playing things close to the vest. In fact, out of all 32 first round picks in 2017, Hooker is one of just two players whose fifth year fate hasn’t been uncovered by reports from NFL media. Eighteen draftees got that fifth year option picked up so far (or received a contract extension). Twelve have had their fifth years declined.
Within a day, we’ll know where the Colts and Hooker fall among those groups.