Projecting the floor and ceiling of Carson Wentz in Indianapolis

Will Carson Wentz do well as an Indianapolis Colt?

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

On February 18th, the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles announced a trade: starting quarterback Carson Wentz was shipped to Indy in exchange for a pair of picks, those being a 2021 third and a 2022 conditional second. Had this trade happened even so much as a year earlier, there is no possibility of it going down, as Wentz was coming off another solid 2019 season in which he broke 4,000 yards for the first time in his career and threw just seven interceptions to 27 touchdowns.

After the 2020 season, however, there are people that will say the trade is equal in value for both sides, and even some that will tell you the Eagles won by getting rid of Wentz. So, what happened?

Well, if you didn’t follow anything related to the Eagles in 2020, I’ll quickly get you up to speed. To put it simply, Wentz absolutely fell apart. Without a competent offense surrounding him, and with the offensive line in shambles due to the injury bug, the Eagles stumbled their way to a 4-11-1 record, dead last in the worst division in football, the NFC East, and second worst in the conference behind the 4-12 Falcons. 

Prior to getting benched in the final quarter of the season, Wentz accumulated a league-leading 15 interceptions to just 16 touchdowns in 12 games. What is even more impressive is that, despite playing four fewer games than most quarterbacks, Wentz led the league in sacks with 50, averaging out to just over four sacks each game. It is also telling that only a single receiver netted over 50 catches on the season, that being Greg Ward, and only Ward, Travis Fulgham, and tight end Dallas Goedert tallied more than 400 receiving yards. The offense surrounding the struggling quarterback was horrendous, but Wentz had issues of his own.

For those who watched any of the Eagles games in 2020 and compared them to his tape from prior seasons, it was obvious that Wentz was not the same quarterback he was before. Perhaps it was the lack of protection, a true top target, or something else, but Wentz developed a multitude of bad habits throughout the season, turning him from a budding young star into arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL.

Now, in 2021, it’s on Colts head coach Frank Reich to see if he can reignite the magic that was displayed when he was the offensive coordinator for Wentz’s MVP-caliber season in 2017. However, it is far from smooth sailing for the pair, as the coaching staff will need to work out Wentz’s aforementioned bad habits in order to get him back to his prior self. However, unlike in Philadelphia, Carson Wentz will have many of the pieces he needs to round back into form.

The Indianapolis Colts house one of the league’s top offensive lines, with superstar left guard Quenton Nelson heading the charge. The unit allowed just 21 sacks in 2020, tied for the second fewest in the league, and their 71 sacks allowed since 2018 is the second fewest over that time period, just one more than the 70 allowed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite losing cornerstone left tackle Anthony Castonzo to retirement at the beginning of the offseason, the team has adequately replaced him with former Chiefs bookend Eric Fisher and pinch-starters in Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport. With Wentz looking good behind top offensive lines from 2017-2019, he should be able to rely on the big guys up front once again in order to boost his own confidence.

The offensive line isn’t the only improvement, however. In Philadelphia, Wentz struggled to get things going while passing to 2017 UDFA Greg Ward, oft-injured tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, an inexperienced Travis Fulgham, and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor, none of whom spark fear into opponents. In Indianapolis, Wentz will unite with former league-leader T.Y. Hilton, sophomore breakout-candidate Michael Pittman Jr., and tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox to form the passing offense. Throw in dynamic receiving back Nyheim Hines and wide receivers Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal, and Wentz is entering a much better situation than he saw in 2020.

Along with a strong rushing attack that saw 2020 rookie running back Jonathan Taylor finish third in the NFL in rushing and is set to return former 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack into the picture, and Wentz has all the tools there to be successful once again. However, the question again returns to whether he can get rid of all the bad habits that arose in the 2020 season in order to return to his full potential. If Reich and Co. can release Wentz from his shackles and round him back into shape, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see the former star reach 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air with the team surrounding him. Should he continue to struggle as he did for much of the 2020 season, there is a chance he could even end up on the bench in favor of 2020 4th-rounder Jacob Eason or 2021 6th-rounder Sam Ehlinger. Whether he regains his star form or is benched for the second time in as many seasons is ultimately up to the 28-year old from North Dakota State University.

Top position battles to watch in Indy this off-season

The Colts LT position is full of mystery

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

As the 2021 NFL offseason winds on, we get closer and closer to training camps and our first true looks at rookies, new faces in new places, and most of all, the camp battles for spots on the team. Veterans taking on rookies, free agents dueling with incumbents, and even the fringe players fighting for their lives just to make the roster in week one.

Indianapolis is no different from the rest of the league, as the Colts have numerous battles set to play out in camp at a number of positions on both sides of the ball. Be it a starting position, a spot in the rotation, or even a kicker battle (yes, there will be a kicker battle again in 2021), there is a lot to watch for and look forward to in late July.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of the key positions that will see players vying for the role when training camp rolls around.

Left Tackle

When Colts long-time left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired at the conclusion of the 2020 season, the team was left with a major hole on that side of the offensive line. While there was initially chatter that the team could consider transitioning All-Pro superstar left guard Quenton Nelson out to the edge, the free agency signings of the team effectively quashed that theory, at least for the time being.

In the early portions of the free agency period, the team signed both former Charger tackle Sam Tevi and former Dolphins bookend Julién Davenport each to one-year contracts. Just when it seemed for a while that these two would be in for a camp battle to see who the starter for the season would be, the Colts brought in former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher following the draft to be the starter.

However, that signing came with a catch: Fisher wouldn’t be available to start the season, as an ACL injury suffered in the playoffs will likely keep him out for at least the first month of the season. Therefore, although he will be the starter when healthy, there is still a major battle to watch at the position in camp. Not for who will start for the season, but rather who will take over until Fisher is healthy and likely become the top backup.

With newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz in desperate need of competent play from the left tackle spot, it is of paramount importance to the team to figure out the pecking order quickly. Be it Tevi, Davenport, or even practice squad signee Will Holden, the blindside needs to be figured out until Fisher can return, as well as for the long term outlook of the backup role.

Cornerback

The Colts defense in 2020 was a major surprise, and a lot of that success came from their pass defense. Long known as a team that stuffs the run well, the unit stepped up in a big way, leading the league in interceptions returned for scores with four while tying for seventh in overall picks at 15.

Much of this success came from the addition of Xavier Rhodes through free agency and the emergence of Kenny Moore II as one of the best, if not the best, slot corners in football. Both of the two contributed two of the four touchdowns and accounting for six of the team’s overall interceptions. The pair go into 2021 as locks at their respective spots, but the other outside corner role is yet to be filled definitively.

Early 2020 starter Rock Ya-Sin, who was coming off of a rough rookie season the year before, stumbled out of the gate and was thrust quickly into a timeshare outside with T.J. Carrie, who performed well in the role despite showing a definite ceiling. With fellow 2019 draftee Marvell Tell returning after taking the 2020 season off due to Covid-19, it is now a three-way race to see who will slot in opposite Rhodes in 2021. Don’t be surprised if it’s the guy who took a break that comes into the starting role, as Tell’s 2019 season showed a lot to like.

For now, though, all eyes are on who will help shut down teams second options on the outside.

Wide Receiver

The wide receiver position comes with a bit of a caveat. As of now, we have effectively five of the likely six receiver spots locked in, with T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, and key special teamer Ashton Dulin all most likely to make the opening roster for week one.

However, despite a seemingly set position, there are still a few questions remaining. As mentioned above, only five of the six likely spots have names penciled in, with the final slot likely going to be won through a breakout camp showing. 

Rookies Mike Strachan, Tyler Vaughns, and Tarik Black figure to make their respective cases in camp, while 2020 rollovers Dezmon Patmon and De’Michael Harris will also have a shot. Don’t overlook free agents Gary Jennings, JJ Nelson, or Quartney Davis either, as each has a skillset that could push them to the top of the pile.

However, it isn’t just the WR6 spot that has questions surrounding it. While a lot of the chatter will be looking at who will fit that bill, there will be another underlying receiver duel going on: who will be Wentz’s top target?

Since being drafted in 2012, T.Y. Hilton has long been the top option in the team’s passing attack, with his deep speed and knowledge of the game giving him an edge on defenders and even allowing him to lead the league in yards in 2016. However, age is a cruel mistress, and she is quickly starting to catch up with the 31-year-old speedster. Thus, Wentz might look at another, slightly taller young target to be his top guy.

Michael Pittman Jr. came in as a rookie and performed very well. While the overall statistics aren’t jaw-dropping, his play on the field more than spoke for itself. Dominating in all three facets of the passing game as a deep threat, red-zone target, and yards-after-catch killer, Pittman showed major potential, and is seen by many as a potential major sophomore breakout candidate in 2021. With Wentz being well known for his vertical passing proficiency and his risk-taking nature, Pittman could quickly become the teams WR1, and the passing of the torch could even happen as soon as the start of camp.

All in all, this is a position to keep an eye on despite not having a “normal” camp battle taking place this season.

Closing Thoughts:

With Colts fans looking for the team to take the next step in the playoffs in 2021 under Carson Wentz, that run is still a while away. Thus, many are waiting just to get to the team’s training camp, if just to catch a glimpse of what may be to come in 2021. The storylines that come out of this period may well give a clear picture early as to the likely outcome of the entire season that lies ahead.

PFF Ranks Indianapolis Colts Running Back Unit Second in the NFL

What makes the Colts rushing attack one of the best in the league?

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

On June 2nd, Pro Football Focus released their ranking of the top rushing attacks across the league. Atop the list sit the Cleveland Browns, and undebatable selection for the top slot. The Browns have arguably two top-10 rushers in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and their rushing attack is unmatched by any other running back room in the league.

Second on that list, we find the Indianapolis Colts.

This was where many people seemed to disagree, as numerous complaints were made across social media that the Colts being slotted second was “a joke”. Many people wanted the Saints and/or Vikings above Indy, but PFF did get this one right, despite the criticism. Here’s why.

In 2021, behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, the Colts run game blew up. With rookie Jonathan Taylor leading the way to the tune of 1,169 rushing yards (third in the league) with 12 touchdowns, and pass-catcher extraordinaire Nyheim Hines pitching in 862 total yards and seven scores, the team’s once laughable running back stable dominated.

Prior to the season, however, the team was looking at former starter Marlon Mack to head the backfield for the team. When he went down in the first game of the season, Taylor was thrust into action as the lead back, and it showed in how overwhelmed he seemed through his first few starts.

Now, the team’s 1,000-yard rusher from 2019 is set to be the teams RB3 in 2021, which is something not many teams can say. To have a 1,000-yard guy as someone who might not even see major playing time is amazing, and allows the team to worry less about injuries, as unlike other squads, the team can cover itself almost to perfection.

While many teams high on the list, including New Orleans and Minnesota, have great 1-2 punches, the Colts are the only team in the league with three guys who could arguably be an RB1. No other team can match that level of skill and talent three-deep.

With the trio set to go strong into 2021, expect the team to use their rushing attack to great effect, pairing with quarterback Carson Wentz in an attempt to push the offense up to elite status. As it stands, the running back stable is well set to help carry the team to the playoffs and potentially help the team make a deep run.

3 underrated offseason moves by the Colts

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2021 offseason as a team on the verge of contention. All of the early talk was on the team’s trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz to replace the retired Phillip Rivers in leading the offense. A bit further down the road, the team again made a splash by drafting Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye with the 21st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, which I consider a steal as he should have gone in the first half of the opening round. 

However, while the team didn’t garner many other headlines aside from those two moments, they look to have improved quite a bit during this period, with many under-the-radar type moves pushing the Colts right to where they want to be. Let’s break down a few!

1) Signing veteran guard Chris Reed from the Carolina Panthers

When you think of overlooked Colts moves, your first thought should be Chris Reed.

After missing the first two weeks on the Covid-19 list in 2020, Reed played every single offensive snap from week three on for the Panthers. He was a big help in taking one of the league’s worst pass-protecting offensive lines in 2019 and pushing them towards the league average in that regard. According to PFF, in those 14 games, Reed allowed just one sack and was penalized just three times while holding down the left guard position.

After signing a one-year, $1.1 million dollar deal in April with the Colts, Reed comes to the team as the primary backup on the interior of the offensive line. With the teams 2020 fifth round pick Danny Pinter likely to take over the right guard position in 2022 should the team move on from Mark Glowinski, Reed is a perfect mentor for the time being, and should perform very well when put on the spot in times of need.

2) Re-signing running back Marlon Mack

Alright, this one might be more personal preference, but hear me out!

After drafting Jonathan Taylor with the 41st pick of the 2020 NFL draft, I was almost ready to see Mack out the door to open up room for Taylor to be a workhorse. When Mack went down in week one, I wasn’t as excited anymore. Why?

Because GM Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich sold me on the “dynamic duo” potential.

During the 2020 offseason, now Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to the media about how the team viewed Taylor and Mack as a “1-1 punch”. Many teams around the league have a good 1-2 punch, but the Colts saw what they had differently. They saw two dynamic backs as co-stars for the Colts backfield, with Taylor wearing down teams by pounding the rock and Mack wearing them out with his cuts and speed.

After Mack was lost for the season, Nyheim Hines stepped up as the primary backup to Jonathan Taylor. After totalling 862 yards and seven touchdowns on 152 touches (89 rushes, 63 catches), Hines returns as a dynamic chess piece for the offense.

Now, in 2021, we will finally get to witness the “1-1 punch” that had fans so excited, and we now know what we have in Nyheim Hines as an amazing third option. By the end of the season, don’t be surprised if the Colts are talked about as having the best running back stable in the league!

3) Letting defensive end Justin Houston walk

In his two seasons in Indy, Justin Houston quickly became a fan favorite for his pass-rushing qualities and leadership of the young defense. It came as a surprise to some, then, when the team didn’t re-sign the end to another short contract to return that player to Indy. (With Houston still available at the time of writing this, he might still return, though it’s unlikely).

However, it was time to move on. At 32 years old, the future Canton-hopeful Houston doesn’t have a lot left in the tank to offer. Despite getting 19.0 sacks in his two seasons with Indy, it was clear he was regressing, as he only tallied his 8.0 sacks on 12 QB Hits in 2020. By all means, that isn’t horrible, but it goes to show how he was becoming more of a clean-up pass rusher than the dominant force he once was.

With the team drafting the aforementioned Paye and Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo to man the end spots for the future in Indy, and with All-Pro defensive tackle Deforest Buckner breaking out with 26 QB hits in 2020, Houston was no longer a necessity up front for the team. While the fans will look back thankfully on his time in Indy, it was time for the two sides to move on, as Indy builds for its future and Houston looks for a ring for his mantle.

Closing:

Despite a quiet offseason in Indy (as has become commonplace under Ballard), the Colts made many underrated moves to improve the roster. From depth on the offensive line, to attempt number two of having a dynamic rushing attack, and finally to letting an aging vet chase a championship, the team made moves for the future in 2021.

While we still have a few months before we can see how those moves paid off, the team looks better on paper now, and fans should be excited for what is to come in Indy!

Why Carson Wentz could be the best QB in the AFC South

Is Colts Carson Wentz the top QB in AFC South?

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

Until recent years, the AFC South had been the laughingstock of the league. From 2011 to 2017, teams in the division accounted for a whopping 12 bottom-six finishes in the NFL. However, their fortunes began to change with a surprising run by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in 2017, and since then, the division has put two teams into the playoffs each season.

Currently, each team in the division is heading in a positive direction and have been building up youth for future success. After the 2021 offseason, every team is set (for the moment, more on this later) at the quarterback position, with Jacksonville drafting generational prospect Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the draft and the Colts trading for Eagles signal caller Carson Wentz.

However, despite all the talent at the position and the recent numbers for each of the four quarterbacks, it’s Carson Wentz who stands above the rest in the division. Here’s why.

For starters, Deshaun Watson is clearly the most talented quarterback in the division, as he has shown in recent seasons by putting up huge numbers with not-so-great teams. However, the litigations taken against the young star this offseason have left major questions surrounding his availability for 2021 and beyond. This means that, should Watson not play in 2021, the team will have to shift to journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor to lead the offense, who, despite some past success with the Buffalo Bills, is a major downgrade.

Moving on to the Titans, Ryan Tannehill has been a fantastic game manager in the teams run-based offense, and pairs with A.J. Brown to form a good punch in the passing game, combining for 1,075 yards and 11 scores in 2020. However, despite good numbers, Tannehill is nothing more than just that: a game manager. This team is clearly Derrick Henry’s to lead, as the bruising back became just the eighth running back ever to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in 2020. Should the team need to rely more on Tannehill, my bet is on their opponent, because though Tannehill is good, he has a ceiling that holds him back.

Finally, we get to the top pick in the draft. In Jacksonville, Trevor Lawrence has some weapons at his disposal along the lines of DJ Chark, Marvin Jones Jr, and Laviska Shenault, and will likely be handed a very long leash just based off of his name alone. Despite never playing an NFL snap, it’s easy to see the Clemson product tearing up the league in the future. However, as a rookie joining a team that just finished with a single win in 2020, he’ll have his work cut out for him, so we can’t expect too much immediately. Sporting a pristine 34-2 collegiate record, though, it shouldn’t take more than a year for Lawrence to acclimate.

And so, we are left with Carson Wentz. On paper, Wentz looks like the worst quarterback in the division, not the best. His 2020 season was arguably the worst in the league, in which he threw a career high 15 interceptions to just 16 touchdowns and was benched halfway through the year in favor of rookie second round pick Jalen Hurts. The questions on whether he can return to his past success with Indy are certainly legitimate, and he has much to prove. However, unlike Watson, he’ll be available. Unlike Tannehill, he has a high ceiling. Unlike Lawrence, he has a good team around him and experience.

With a much better offense waiting for him in Indianapolis, Carson Wentz could and should return to his MVP-level play from the Eagles 2017-18 Super Bowl season and is well situated to come out on top of a crowded quarterback competition in the division.

Why the Indianapolis Colts are AFC South favorites

Indianapolis Colts are AFC South favorites

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2021 offseason as a team in flux. After losing their starting quarterback and left tackle to retirement following the season, the team needed to fill some holes, and fast. Fast forward a few months, and the team is situated well to win the division, and should the cards fall right, they’re a young team with championship potential.

So, what happened? What makes the Colts the early favorites to hoist the AFC South Championship banner this season? Let’s dive into three reasons why Indy is poised to potentially make waves in 2021.

Which Wentz Will Arrive in Indy?

After an early offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles which netted Indianapolis former second overall pick Carson Wentz in exchange for a third and a future second/first, Indy solved the problem of who would be under center for the team for 2021.

The question that remains, however, is if the Colts will get pre-2020 Wentz, or the Wentz that played last season as arguably the worst quarterback in the league.

Prior to his fall in 2020, Wentz was a rising quarterback, having played at an MVP level during the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl season and overcoming injuries and poor offensive help to perform well in 2018 and 2019. The wheels suddenly fell off in 2020, however, as Wentz struggled horribly, throwing 15 interceptions in just 12 games and getting benched for 2020 second rounder Jalen Hurts halfway through their Week 13 matchup with Green Bay.

If the Colts can get an earlier version of Carson Wentz, they have the offensive line and weapons to field a top 5 offense. If he struggles again, the team could fall apart entirely.

Defensive Dominance

The 2020 Colts defense was a pleasant surprise, going from a subpar/bad unit to one of the league’s best. With the acquisition of DeForest Buckner playing a pivotal role in the improvements of the front 7, the team finally was able to field its first top-10 defense since 2007.

In the 2021 draft, Ballard improved the unit further, adding Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo in the first and second rounds, respectively. While Dayo might not see the field until the latter half of the season, Paye should come in as an impact player right away, pairing with Buckner to overcome the loss of Justin Houston in the offseason.

While the defense did perform extremely well in 2020, there is even more room for improvements in 2021. If the newcomers can make an impact early, the defense could be championship-caliber.

A New Left Tackle

After the draft had come and gone, Colts fans were upset that the team had failed to fill the massive hole left on the left side of the line by Anthony Castonzo. Free agents Sam Tevi and Julien Davenport were nothing more than backup-level players, and the team failed to draft an offensive lineman until the final round of the draft.

On Monday, May 10th, the Colts finally filled the position.

Long-time Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, a former first-overall pick, hit free agency with one big issue holding him back: an Achilles injury suffered during the Chiefs victory over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game.

With most projections expecting the tackle to be out for the start to the season, fans of the Colts shouldn’t immediately expect the left tackle position to be set. Instead, it will likely be one of Tevi or Davenport holding the position down for a few weeks until Fisher is ready to go.

Once he does check out as healthy, though, the team shouldn’t have any issues from a left side of the line comprised of Fisher, All-Pro Quenton Nelson, and Pro-Bowler Ryan Kelly.

Closing Thoughts

With so many questions surrounding the AFC South in 2021, the Colts seem like the team best situated to take advantage of the issues surrounding their divisional rivals. The Jaguars seem to be a year away from competing, with first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence and rookie head coach Urban Meyers likely to need time to acclimate. The Texans seem to be having issue after issue, headlined by the allegations surrounding their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Titans, likely to be the one team with a chance to challenge the Colts, got worse in the offseason, losing many key defenders.

With the door wide open in the AFC South, the Colts are the best bet right now to lead the way in 2021.

Top Destinations For Malik Hooker

Where will free agent Malik Hooker sign?

By: Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)

Malik Hooker has been a playmaking safety for the Indianapolis Colts ever since he entered the NFL. But, injuries have plagued Hookers promising young NFL career, and he is now to be a free agent this offseason. The Colts have found their new star at the safety position in Julian Blackmon. Therefore, they declined Hooker’s fifth-year option, and Hooker will be playing in another jersey in 2021.

So, what does the former 2017 first-round pick bring to an organization? Hooker has shown when he is healthy, he is still a quality safety that can provide reliable coverage over the middle of the field. I expect Hooker to receive a one-year prove-it deal with another NFL team this offseason. Hooker will be a low-risk, high-reward player in free agency. Expect multiple NFL teams to be interested in the former first-rounder.  Let’s get into my top three destinations for Malik Hooker in 2021.

Malik Hooker Career Stats

Seven interceptions  

11 passes defended

Two fumbles recovered

81 solo tackles

124 combined tackles

Jacksonville Jaguars

I’m not sure if most of you are aware, but the Jaguars are a match made in heaven for Malik Hooker. Not only will Hooker face the former team that gave up on him twice a year if he signs with the Jaguars, but he will also be playing for his former college coach Urban Meyer. The last time Hooker played for Meyer, they won an NCAA Championship together.

 The Jaguars can also upgrade the safety position, and Hooker won’t be expensive in free agency. While money isn’t an issue for the Jaguars with around $77 million in cap space, spending low on Hooker can provide the team to break the bank for other stars. Hooker is still only 24 years old; Meyer can rejuvenate his star college safety career again.

San Francisco 49ers

In one of my other articles, I talked about how I would love to see Malik Hooker join the 49ers. Like Hooker, we have seen a promising young defensive who suffered from injuries rejuvenating his career in San Francisco. The 49ers took a chance on Jason Verrett, and it worked wonders for them. Verrett had a great 2020 season, and he is now going to be heavily coveted by teams this offseason. I could see something similar happening to Hooker if he went to the 49ers.

 The 49ers will have an opening at the safety position, with Jaquiski Tartt most likely leaving in free agency. The 49ers won’t have to break the bank to bring in Hooker either. The 49ers have several key free agents they need to focus on bringing back, and they won’t have money to break big on safety.

The 49ers currently have around $13 million in cap space. Hooker would be a low-risk, high-reward player for the 49ers, who still has upside. Hooker has a chance to go to San Francisco and get his career back on the right path.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders appear to be a fascinating destination for Malik Hooker in 2021. There’s no question the Raider’s defense needs to improve in 2021, and adding a new playmaker to the secondary would be a massive step in the right direction for the Raiders. The Raiders are heading into 2021 with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

Bradley comes from Seattle, whose defense was notoriously known as the legion of boom. The Seahawks defense consisted of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at the safety positions. Both were known for being ball hawk safeties who were great at attacking the football.

The Raiders already have Jonathan Abram on the roster for one of their safety spots. Adding a playmaker like Malik Hooker could be an excellent decision for the Raider’s defense. A young safety tandem of Jonathan Abram and Malik Hooker sounds promising if they both can stay healthy. The move would make a lot of sense, as Bradley and the Raiders are looking for a player to fill the “Earl Thomas role.”

Considering Hooker has recorded seven interceptions throughout three seasons, he could be exactly what the Raiders are looking for.  With around $18 million in cap space, the Raiders have more than enough money to get a deal done with Hooker if they want him.

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