Indianapolis Colts Safety Malik Hooker Reportedly On Trading Block, Makes Little Sense For Cleveland Browns

Former first round pick and currently Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker is on the trading block according to Mike Lombardi, host of The GM Shuffle Podcast. The Cleveland Browns have already been connected to Hooker in the past.
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The Indianapolis Colts have placed Malik Hooker on the trading block, according to Mike Lombardi, host of The GM Shuffle podcast. Hooker, who has a connection with the Browns dating back to the 2017 NFL Draft, is entering his fourth season in the league and it's been underwhelming to this point largely due to injuries.

Hooker, the 15th selection of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Colts, got off to a hot start, intercepting three passes in his first seven games. Unfortunately, he suffered an ugly torn ACL that ended his rookie season and that same player has yet to resurface. He also missed a pair of games in 2018 and three more in 2019, while only intercepting four passes in those 27 games.

The reason a team like the Colts would be interested in moving on from a player like Hooker, if that is true, is because he's entering the fourth year of his rookie contract. First round rookies have a fifth year option, which can be a difficult choice to make for a team that has been underwhelmed to this point in their selection. Rather than risk picking up what is currently a $11.51 million option for 2021 or voiding it and letting him become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season, they would like to get something for him now, potentially a draft pick that can help them. 

The Colts, with some big moves like the addition of quarterback Phillip Rivers, are trying to win the Super Bowl now. Waiting for a potential compensatory pick for Hooker doesn't help them while they have Rivers, so if they don't see Hooker in the team's plans, they'll go ahead and try to move him now.

The Colts would be willing to take on $1.825 million in dead money to move Hooker, who would be on a contract in 2020 worth $2.183 million, which is perfectly reasonable. The hitch for the team acquiring him is the fact they would like be forced to pick up that fifth year option or negotiate a contract extension, so they don't give up a pick to just watch him walk after the season. Given Hooker's injury history, that might scare most teams off from such a trade.

The Browns made a similar move when they acquired Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers for DeShone Kizer. The Browns, then under general manager John Dorsey, picked up an option worth around $9 million for his fifth year. Randall's first season in Cleveland was great, but his second was an outright disaster and he was allowed to leave in free agency. He signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders.

The Browns had a connection with Hooker during the 2017 NFL Draft. When they were on the clock with the 12th pick, former head coach Hue Jackson advocated that the Browns take Hooker with the pick. The Browns instead traded down to 25th pick in a deal with the Houston Texans, also acquiring their 2018 first round pick, which became Denzel Ward. The Browns took Jabrill Peppers at 25, who was traded as part of the deal to acquire Odell Beckham.

The Browns could be interested in Hooker if the price is basically nothing as the deal for Randall was. The problem is unlike Randall, the Browns don't automatically have a place to put Hooker. Based on last season, Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph were better than Hooker, so he'd be the third safety. He might be a nice deep option in nickel and dime situations playing two-high with Sendejo, but then they likely wouldn't want to pick up his option. It seems unlikely this is a deal the Browns would pursue.