Akiem Hicks comes in at No. 38 on Pro Football Network’s list of top available 2022 free agents. The one-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle/end ranks second behind D.J. Jones among interior defensive linemen in this year’s free agent class. With this in mind, and looking at his stats from last season, what type of contract could Hicks receive in free agency?
Akiem Hicks: Free Agency Overview
The Chicago Bears made a complete organizational overhaul this offseason, firing coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace and hiring Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles to replace them. Eberflus’ arrival means a change in defensive scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and that might mean Hicks, 32, is no longer a fit.
There are other signs that perhaps it’s time for a change. The Athletic reported Hicks was involved in a heated exchange with his then-position coach, Chris Rumph, after the Bears’ Week 17 win over the Giants that was said to be “heated and ugly.” Hicks, who badly wanted an extension that would make him a Bear for the remainder of his career but never got one, might also be ready for a change.
Recapping Hicks’ 2021 season
Hicks did not play a full season for the third straight year after missing three games total in his first six seasons. But in the nine games in which he was on the field, he proved he still could play, as he posted 3.5 sacks, 25 tackles (including 5 for loss), 9 quarterback hits, and 11 pressures.
Hicks’ contract estimate and salary cap implications
Hicks just finished up a four-year, $48 million contract with the Bears that brought his career earnings to $62.3 million. Those prime earning years are now over, but Hicks won’t have to play for the minimum in 2022. Spotrac calculates his market value at $5.5 million annually, which would rank 33rd among defensive ends. The Bears, if they’re interested in bringing him back, have the league’s 10th-most cap space ($26.6 million) as of Feb. 26.
Possible landing spots for Hicks
Hicks presumably wants to go somewhere where he can win a ring. And given his position flexibility, the list of teams that should be interested is long. The Chargers, Bills, Cowboys, Ravens, and Packers all need interior defensive line help.
What they’re saying
“You guys see me play, you can tell that I play with a lot of passion right? You can’t have that type of passion unless you really care and are truly invested, like with your heart and your feelings and stuff like that, you know?” — Akiem Hicks, December 2021
“Hicks can’t give [maximum] effort on every down. He’s a 33-year-old 330-pounder at this point. But if you’re playing a wide-zone team, you want him crossing guards’ faces and bubbling them back a few yards. Hopefully, Hicks can land with a contender and ring chase late in his career.” — PFN analyst Dalton Miller