Malik Hooker met with the Dallas Cowboys for a second time on July 23 in hopes of restarting a once-promising career that has yet to get going. The free agent was the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft. In two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Hooker showed signs of skill but couldn’t avoid season-ending injuries.
When healthy, Hooker tallied 124 combined tackles in 36 games, snagged seven interceptions, and recovered a fumble. He is considered to be one of the top-10 free agent prospects on the market. Analysts see Hooker as an every-down safety if he can keep healthy.
The injuries that Hooker suffered date back to shortly after leaving Ohio State. He suffered a sports hernia and torn labrum in his final collegiate year. 2017 saw Hooker go down with serious MCL and ACL injuries forcing him out of the season in Week 2. Hip injuries and a foot injury in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2018 also hampered Hooker and his progress as a player.
The Cowboys appear to finally be answering years of fans asking for upgrades on defense after suffering what can only be seen as an embarrassing season in 2020. Adding Hooker to the lineup puts pressure on several newcomers and, should Hooker make the team, provides a player with the demonstrated skill to haunt QBs having errant days.
In the offseason, Dallas brought in Keanu Neal, though the plan is to move him from safety to linebacker. Neal, the 17th overall pick from 2016 comes to Dallas from the Atlanta Falcons. Neal has had his fair share of injuries, experiencing an Achilles injury in 2019 and a knee injury in 2018. He appeared in 15 games for the Falcons last season, recording 97 tackles, one sack, and one interception.
The ‘Boys also brought in 2016 seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse who is expected to add depth to the roster and shore up the special team’s play. Cowboys brass thinks they’ve found the guy in Damontae Kazee to take over as free safety. Adding Hooker, if he passes physicals, upgrades the Cowboys’ secondary significantly from last season.
Injuries will be the biggest concern if Hooker joins the Cowboys. DraftSharks.com gives him an 85% chance of missing two games due to injury in 2021-22, projecting that he will miss three games during the season on account of injuries.
The Cowboys are likely taking a chance on a player that may come on board without a significant salary-cap hit who has the ability to produce turnovers and shut down receivers in big games. The Cowboy’s defensive scheme should play well with Hooker’s ball-hawking style, giving him a chance to put together a nice highlight reel for the year.
Hooker also visited with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins this offseason. The Colts showed no interest in resigning Hooker as they have moved to a Cover-2 defense that doesn’t fit well with his style of play.