The Indianapolis Colts may have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Malik Hooker's contract, but they aren't necessarily giving up on their former first-round pick. While he's had to deal with several injuries over the course of his career, the Colts still believe he has the on-field ability to change their minds and earn a new contract following the 2020 season.
Before the Colts' decision to decline Hooker's fifth-year option became public, head coach Frank Reich spoke to the media and said that he is still expecting big things from his starting safety. Despite Indy's decision to save roughly $6.7 million, they aren't necessarily looking to move on from Hooker in the near future.
"In , Malik was coming off that injury and got better as the year went on," Reich said, via Stephen Holder of The Athletic. "Last year, I really felt like Malik had a really good year. You could really feel his presence. Physically, I felt Malik's presence on the field. Malik is not the most outgoing, bubbly personality. He's got a lot of juice and intensity in him and I think you really saw that come out last year when he was healthy, when he started playing real physical and making plays on the ball. So, really excited and expecting big things from him this year."
In 2019, Hooker recorded a career-high 51 combined tackles, three passes defensed and two interceptions in 13 games played. He has never played a full 16-game season due to injury. When healthy, however, the 24 year old has shown flashes of stardom. It's going to be hard to forget his one-handed interception off of Philip Rivers in last year's season opener.
Hooker recorded five combined tackles and that one interception in Week 1. It really looked like he was on his way to a breakout season -- but he tore his meniscus in a Week 3 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. He did return to play the final 10 games of the season, but recorded just one more interception.
If you were to poll fans on the Colts' decision to decline Hooker's fifth-year option, expect something close to a 50-50 split. While he hasn't lived up to the "No. 15 overall pick" hype, he has been a leader on Indy's defense when healthy. This season is going to be important when it comes to his future and how lucrative the next contract he signs will be, but Reich clearly believes he can prove the Colts wrong in 2020.