5 players 49ers should have signed in free agency

Curtis Samuel #10 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Curtis Samuel #10 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /
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Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker (29) Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 2: Safety Malik Hooker

At the time of this writing, four-year safety Malik Hooker remains a free agent. And to an extent, it makes sense why the Indianapolis Colts elected not to pick up the former first-round NFL Draft pick’s fifth-year option. Considering he missed all but two games last year with injury, one can understand it a bit.

That said, Hooker is still a quality young player who is still on the ascent. The longer he remains on the open market, the cheaper his contract is likely to become. And if anything, he’d probably accept a team-friendly one-year “prove it” deal, ultimately hoping to cash in on some lofty production in 2021 while banking on the NFL salary cap’s increase in 2022.

San Francisco’s starting free safety, Jimmie Ward, has enjoyed a relatively healthy two-year stretch dating back to 2019. Yet the re-signing of strong safety Jaquiski Tartt all but eliminates any chance the 49ers pursue Hooker.

Yes, the 24-year-old Hooker is a free safety. But the Niners made their safeties more interchangeable in 2019, effectively eliminating the sole use of the single-high system former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh implemented in 2017.

Hooker would have been just as viable a player on the strong side of the formation. And probably as cheap as Tartt while being considerably younger, too.