Buccaneers Sign DL Akiem Hicks

JUNE 3: Details on Hicks’ Buccaneers salary emerged Friday. While the former Bears standout will not make close to the money he was tied to on his second Chicago pact, Greg Auman of The Athletic notes the 11th-year veteran did secure a base value of $6.5MM (subscription required). Another $1.5MM will be available via per-game roster bonuses.

As they have done during their Tom Brady period, the Bucs attached void years to lower Hicks’ 2022 cap figure. Because four void years are included here, Hicks will count just $2.39MM on the Bucs’ cap sheet this year, Auman adds. If Hicks does not agree to an extension before the start of the 2023 league year, Tampa Bay will be tagged with at least $4.9MM in dead money.

MAY 31: After Akiem Hicks‘ free agency market generated little buzz for months, the former Bears All-Pro will land with a high-profile team. The Buccaneers agreed to terms with the veteran defensive lineman Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Hicks and the Bucs agreed to a one-year deal that can max out at $10MM, per Schefter. Hicks spent the past six seasons in Chicago, but with the Bears shedding many veteran contracts from their previously experienced front seven, the talented interior D-lineman no longer appeared a fit.

This move essentially signals the Bucs will separate from Ndamukong Suh after three years. This appeared to be the direction the Bucs were heading, despite Suh having had conversations with Tampa Bay coaches earlier this offseason. Hicks, 32, is two years younger than Suh. While Hicks’ resume is not as decorated as the All-Decade D-tackle’s, he should have an opportunity to work as a key contributor on a defensive front that houses Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett. Second-round pick Logan Hall and the recently re-signed William Gholston also reside on a now-deeper Bucs front.

The signing represents a bit of a gamble by the Bucs; a durability disparity also exists between Suh and Hicks. The former has been one of the NFL’s most reliable performers, having never missed a game due to injury. Hicks missed eight games last season and 11 in 2019. Still, Pro Football Focus gave Hicks a solid 72.3 grade last season — albeit on only 304 defensive snaps. That mark was well north of Suh’s in 2021.

The Bucs newcomer joined Suh in being one of the top free agents still available, and he has extensive experience in a 3-4 scheme. Operating as a 3-4 end that played inside on four-man fronts, Hicks joined Khalil Mack in catalyzing the Bears’ defensive rise under Vic Fangio. Hicks’ best work came under Fangio, peaking with a 2018 Pro Bowl nod, with injuries largely limiting him during Chuck Pagano and Sean Desai‘s defensive coordinator years.

A 2012 Saints third-round pick, Hicks finished his rookie contract with the Patriots (after an in-season trade) in 2015. The Bears landed a bargain deal with Hicks in free agency in 2016 and later extended him — on a four-year, $48MM deal — a year later. Hicks recorded 23 sacks and 38 tackles for loss during Fangio’s final three Chicago seasons. While the 335-pound lineman did produce a career-high 21 quarterback hits in 2020, he has just eight sacks over the past three years.

Tampa Bay filling its Suh slot also creates intrigue for the 12-year veteran. Suh, 34, has played for four teams — the Lions, Dolphins, Rams and Bucs — and has appeared in two Super Bowls. He notched six sacks in each of the past two seasons and helped the Bucs erase a 24-point deficit against the Rams in the teams’ January divisional-round meeting. Despite Suh’s advanced age, he has been effective in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and should have options to play a 13th season.

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