Eagles: Malik Hooker is the best, most affordable option to replace Mills

With Jalen Mills now on the New England Patriots after signing a four-year, $24 million deal, the Eagles have a significant hole to fill in their secondary. You could argue safety was already need had Mills remained on the roster, but with his departure official, along with special teamer and depth safety Rudy Ford also leaving, safety is now one of the biggest needs facing this team.

The Eagles were relatively quiet on the first day of legal tampering on Monday. The only move they mad was re-signing one of their own, handing Brandon Graham a one-year contract extension, a move that saves the Eagles about $9 million in cap space.

With the limited cap space at their disposal, seeing the Eagles remain on the sidelines during Monday’s tampering period wasn’t a surprise. But as more of the big-name free agents start to come off the board, expect Howie Roseman to start wheeling and dealing.

One name to keep a close eye on is former Colts safety Malik Hooker.

Hooker was at the top of my list for defensive free agents the Eagles should take a look at. He’s a low-risk, high-reward signing, the exact type of free agent signing Roseman and Co. are going to have to consider this offseason given the small amount cap they have to work with.

The former first round pick has dealt with injuries every step of the way during his NFL career. Hooker managed to start just six games in his rookie campaign, followed by 14 and 13 starts the next two seasons, before tearing his Achilles and missing essentially the entire 2020 season. But when he’s been healthy, Hooker is a formidable safety who has ball hawking ability — something that this defense has sorely lacked for the past decade.

Hooker played under new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon in Indianapolis, where Gannon was his secondary coach. Hooker recorded seven interceptions during his three healthy years playing under Gannon’s tutelage. In 2018, Pro Football Focus gave Hooker an 81.6 coverage grade, well above average for the safety positon.

While his injury history is concerning, especially for Eagles fans, it does lower his value on the open market, making him a feasible signing for the Eagles. PFF projects that Hooker will sign for one-year at just $2 million, barely above the league minimum.

Hooker’s prior work with Gannon and the Eagles glaring need at the position makes this a no-brainer signing for Howie. He’s also still only 24 years old, with his best football still ahead of him.

Bringing Hooker in on a one-year “prove it” deal would allow the Eagles to get a proper assessment on him before handing him a long-term deal. They’ll also have the first opportunity to do so with Hooker on their roster.

The Eagles aren’t going to be able to bring in any marquee guys this offseason, that’s just the reality of their current cap situation. Hooker is about as close as we’ll get to seeing a stud free agent come to Philly this offseason. Howie shouldn’t let this opportunity slip away.


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