Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles wants the team to re-sign defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, as Greg Auman of FOX Sports tweets. At present, there have been no public reports of outside interest in Hicks’ services.
Hicks, 33, signed a one-year contract with the Bucs last offseason following a lengthy stint with the Bears. Unfortunately, injuries marred the second half of Hicks’ Chicago tenure, as he missed 11 games due to an elbow injury in 2019 and was sidelined for eight contests in 2021. In his first season in Tampa, the health woes continued, as a torn plantar fascia forced Hicks to miss six games.
His age and recent injury history are likely what have kept Hicks on the open market. Still, in his 11 games (all starts) in 2022, Hicks made a clear impact on the Bucs’ defense. In those games, Tampa Bay yielded 106 rushing yards per game on a 4.2 yards-per-carry rate, and in six contests without Hicks, the Bucs allowed 148 rushing yards per game on a 4.9 YPC rate (via the team’s official website).
And, while Hicks has not posted more than 3.5 sacks in a single season since his Pro Bowl campaign in 2018 (he recorded just one sack last year), his ability to move the pocket from the interior has nonetheless been a key element of his game. It therefore makes sense that Bowles would want Hicks back, especially since it would likely not cost much to make that happen.
The Bucs did sign Greg Gaines last month and are also rostering 2022 second-rounder Logan Hall, and both of those players are presently penciled in as the starting bookends around nose tackle Vita Vea. However, the team lost Rakeem Nunez-Roches to the Giants and do not have much by way of proven depth behind its starting DL trio (longtime contributor William Gholston is also out of contract).
Tampa Bay, though, is in a much different competitive position now than it was when Hicks signed with the club last year. In 2022, the Bucs still had Tom Brady on the roster and were poised to make a deep playoff run. The team did ultimately qualify for the postseason thanks to a weak division, but after suffering a wildcard round loss to the Cowboys, Brady has retired for good. Because the Bucs have elected to absorb the full $35MM dead cap charge stemming from Brady’s contract on their 2023 ledger, it appears they are preparing for something of a retooling year, and Hicks — who has earned roughly $70MM in his career but who does not have a Super Bowl ring — may prefer to wait for a more obvious contender to come calling.