Akiem Hicks

Patriots Notes: Hightower, Hicks, Amendola

Here’s a look at the Pats:

  • The Patriots will probably consider trading for an inside linebacker in the wake of Dont’a Hightower‘s injury, but they also have to think carefully about further mortgaging their future, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Already, the Eagles are on track to send a fourth-round pick to the Eagles for the Eric Rowe deal plus 2018 fifth- and seventh-round picks to the Seahawks to acquire Cassius Marsh and a 2019 sixth-round pick in a deal with the Lions for cornerback Johnson Bademosi.
  • Hightower isn’t their only injury concern. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is dealing with a hyperextended knee, as Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald writes. Amendola’s injury, which is nowhere near as serious as Hightower’s, happened during a punt return against the Falcons. Amendola missed practice on Wednesday, but managed to return Thursday, so he could theoretically gut it out on Sunday against the Chargers. Alternatively, they may look to rest the 31-year-old for a bit with the bye week on the horizon. The Amendola injury could impact the Pats’ course of action in filling Hightower’s shoes. They might need a 53-man roster spot to add a wide receiver, or even a defensive tackle in the wake of Malcom Brown‘s ankle injury.
  • Coach Bill Belichick called defensive lineman Akiem Hicks at the last minute in 2016 to try and sign him in free agency, Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times writes. Ultimately, the reunion didn’t happen and Chicago is grateful for that. In 2015, Hicks totaled three sacks in 13 regular-season games for New England and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its 14th-best defensive tackle. In 2016, Hicks finished out with a career-high 54 tackles and seven sacks, setting himself up for a four-year, $48MM extension with the Bears this September. Through seven games this year, he already has six sacks and 24 tackles. Within the article, Hicks also blamed his so-so performance in New Orleans on being miscast as an edge rusher.

Bears Sign Akiem Hicks To Extension

Akiem Hicks will begin his second Bears season Sunday, and it looks like the veteran defensive end will see many more Windy City openers. The Bears and Hicks agreed to a lucrative extension on Saturday, with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reporting (via Twitter) it’s a four-year, $48MM contract.

Hicks will see $30MM in guaranteed money, Schefter reports. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported (on Twitter) a deal could be imminent, and within a minute, terms emerged. Hicks will now become by far the Bears’ highest-paid defender.

The Bears initially signed Hicks to a two-year, $10MM deal as a free agent last year. But Hicks’ second Chicago accord rockets him into the upper echelon of 3-4 defensive end contracts.

Only Muhammad Wilkerson, J.J. Watt and Jurrell Casey entered today making more per year than Hicks’ $12MM new-money average. The 27-year-old defender’s deal comes in comfortably ahead of the other eight-figure-per-year members — Mike Daniels, Corey Liuget and Cameron Heyward each make between $10.2-$10.6MM AAV. He and Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt — also extended today, for $12.2MM AAV — form their own tier in between these aforementioned levels.

A former third-round Saints pick in 2012, Hicks registered a career-high seven sacks last season. He was seeking $10MM per year and expressed desire to remain a Bear, entering what was set to be his contract campaign. But his camp did quite well in securing this agreement, going well north of that $10MM-AAV threshold. Hicks signed with Rosenhaus Sports earlier this summer to prepare for what turned out to be preseason negotiations.

Hicks rated as a top-flight interior defender, via Pro Football Focus, last season. The former Saint and Patriot’s deal is closer to those of higher-end 4-3 defensive tackle contracts than among players at his own position. PFR’s Connor Byrne assessed Hicks’ value this summer and mentioned deals on the Heyward/Daniels tier as Hicks’ realistic ballpark but did not discount a possibility of a pact in between those and the Jaguars-authorized contacts for Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell. Hicks’ deal falls south of Jackson and Campbell’s mammoth pacts but in front of the Giants’ Damon Harrison and Bengals Pro Bowler Geno Atkins‘ agreement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Cards, Rams, Giants

Extension chatter regarding contract-year Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks has died down after some early summer rumblings, but the 27-year-old made it clear Thursday that he’d like to remain in Chicago. Hicks said on multiple occasions that “I would love to be a Bear for a long time,” per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Back in July, in advance of his second season with the Bears, Hicks hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus as his representative. Rosenhaus has reportedly been seeking $10MM per year for Hicks on a new deal. Hicks made a case for that type of money last season when he tallied 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles across 16 starts and 930 snaps. Barring a change, he’ll earn a $4MM base salary this season to conclude a two-year, $10MM pact.

Elsewhere around the NFC…

  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians referred to cornerback Justin Bethel as a “failure in progress” last season, and it now looks as if the defender took that to heart. Arians announced Thursday that Bethel will start opposite Patrick Peterson come Week 1 (video link via the Arizona Republic). “He’s earned that job,” said Arians, who added that Bethel “outplayed everybody” he was competing against for the role. Bethel, 27, took a pay cut in the offseason just to remain with the Cardinals, who deleted the last year of his contract (2018) in the process. He’ll be eligible for free agency next winter as a result.
  • Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that running back Lance Dunbar is likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, according to the Associated Press. Dunbar, who has been battling knee issues, would miss the Rams’ first six games in that scenario. The Rams’ hope was that the offseason signing and former Cowboy would serve as their top complement to starter Todd Gurley for the entire year. With Dunbar unavailable for the foreseeable future, Los Angeles will choose between Malcolm Brown – a 2015 undrafted free agent who has 22 carries for 56 yards under his belt – and undrafted rookie Justin Davis to begin the year as the main backup to Gurley.
  • Cornerback Valentino Blake left the Giants on Wednesday because “he’s dealing with personal issues,” coach Ben McAdoo told reporters Thursday (via Dan Duggan of NJ.com) “We’re going to give him some time and space to deal with those.” It remains unclear whether Blake will resume his career, and it’s also unknown how long the Giants will keep him on the exempt list. They’re currently using Blake’s vacated spot on safety Tim Scott, a Thursday signing.

Akiem Hicks Seeking $10MM Per Year

Having just hired Rosenhaus Sports to represent him, Bears contract-year defensive end Akiem Hicks is seeking $10MM per year on a new deal, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter).

Akiem Hicks (vertical)

Formerly with the Patriots and Saints, Hicks joined the Bears in March 2016 on a two-year pact totaling $10MM. That contract has been a steal thus far for the Bears, with whom Hicks played like one of the NFL’s premier defensive linemen last season. Hicks tied a career high with 16 starts, led Bears defensive linemen in snaps (930) and piled up 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. Additionally, the 27-year-old ranked 15th among Pro Football Focus’ 127 qualified interior D-linemen in overall performance.

Given both Hicks’ showing last season and the deals given out to similarly productive players in recent years, it’s no surprise that he’s looking to double his annual income. As PFR suggested earlier this month, the contracts Giants nose tackle Damon Harrison (five years, $46.25MM, including $24MM guaranteed) and Packers DT Mike Daniels (four years, $42MM, including $12MM guaranteed) signed over the past couple years are among those that look like reasonable benchmarks for Hicks.

Without a new deal by next year, the Bears could theoretically place the franchise tag on Hicks, but the $17MM cost would be far higher than his current asking price. With that in mind, it would seemingly behoove general manager Ryan Pace to get to work on extending one of his key defensive contributors. Hicks, for his part, isn’t looking to leave Chicago.

“I just enjoy my time here and I’m completely open to ending my career here,” he told Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com and other reporters Wednesday.

It may help Hicks’ cause that Pace has long had an affinity for the defender, having been part of two front offices that have acquired him. When Hicks entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Saints in 2012, Pace was their director of professional scouting.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Akiem Hicks Hires Rosenhaus Sports

On the cusp of a contract year, Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks announced last month that he was seeking new representation. The search is over, according to Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen, who tweets that Hicks has signed with Drew Rosenhaus and Ryan Matha of Rosenhaus Sports.

Akiem Hicks (vertical)

Turning to Rosenhaus, the most famous agent in football, certainly shouldn’t hurt Hicks’ cause as he vies for a major payday. Hicks made his own case for a raise on the field last year, his first in Chicago, when he performed like one of the NFL’s premier defensive linemen. After signing a two-year, $10MM contract in free agency last offseason, the former Saint and Patriot led all Bears D-linemen in snaps (930) and piled up 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles across 16 starts. In addition to recording excellent traditional numbers, Hicks ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-best interior defender last season.

Now that Hicks has representation again, it won’t be surprising if general manager Ryan Pace attempts to lock him up to an extension this summer. The Bears have no shortage of cap space going forward, though a notable chunk of that would go to Hicks if the two sides were to hammer out a new deal.

As I noted last week when examining a potential extension for Hicks, a pact worth eight figures per year looks like a reasonable goal at the moment. If the Bears aren’t convinced Hicks is worth that type of long-term investment now and he ends up posting another huge season, the team could keep him via the franchise tag. However, tagging an end next year will cost roughly $17MM, which could be too pricey in Hicks’ case.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Akiem Hicks

As a quality player entering a contract year, Bears lineman Akiem Hicks has a realistic chance of ending up as one of the richest defenders in next winter’s free agent class. While there’s no indication that the Bears have prioritized an extension for Hicks, it’s fair to suggest that an ideal scenario for general manager Ryan Pace would include keeping the five-year veteran in the fold for the long haul.

Akiem Hicks

In March 2016, Hicks’ first trip to free agency, Pace lured him from New England on a two-year, $10MM deal. Hicks entered the NFL in 2012 as a third-round pick of the Saints, who employed Pace at the time. Three years later, New Orleans deemed Hicks expendable, sending him to the Patriots for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. That proved to be yet another shrewd move by the Pats, with whom Hicks fared well across 13 games in 2015 before departing for a richer payday.

Pace made an astute decision of his own when he signed Hicks, as the 318-pounder thrived last year while taking on more responsibility than he had in either New Orleans or New England. Hicks tied a career high with 16 starts and established new personal bests in snaps (930, which led all Bears defensive linemen), tackles (54), sacks (seven) and forced fumbles (two). Those are impressive traditional numbers, and Hicks also fared well in terms of advanced metrics, as Pro Football Focus ranked his performance a stellar 15th among 127 qualified interior D-linemen last season.

Now, eight months from potentially becoming a free agent again, Hicks is in the market for a new representative, and he seems cognizant that he’s on the verge of a raise.

I am a free agent that is almost a free agent,” Hicks said last month. “You get it?

Preventing an unsigned Hicks from leaving Chicago via the franchise tag next winter would cost the club a lofty amount, somewhere in the $17MM neighborhood. With that in mind, when the defensive end hires an agent, it would behoove Pace to reach out to his representative regarding an extension. The question is: What would be a fair offer for the 27-year-old Hicks, who went from a solid lineman from 2012-15, when he combined for 33 starts and 9.5 sacks, to a borderline excellent one last season? Among PFF’s other top 15 interior linemen from last year, several have recently landed contracts, including Calais Campbell (No. 2), Kawann Short (No. 3), Fletcher Cox (No. 5), Damon Harrison (No. 7), Mike Daniels (No. 9) and Malik Jackson (No. 12). Here’s a quick rundown of those deals:

  • Campbell: Four years, $60MM, including $30MM guaranteed (March 2017)
  • Short: Five years, $80MM, including $35MM guaranteed (April 2017)
  • Cox: Six years, $103MM, including $63MM guaranteed (June 2016)
  • Harrison: Five years, $46.25MM, including $24MM guaranteed (March 2016)
  • Daniels: Four years, $42MM, including $12MM guaranteed (December 2015)
  • Jackson: Six years, $90MM, including $42MM guaranteed (March 2016)

At around $10MM per year over a handful of seasons, the Harrison and Daniels contracts look like more reasonable benchmarks than the others for Hicks, though the guaranteed money would likely have to approach Harrison’s total. It’s important to note that the salary cap has risen since those two signed, and it’s only going to continue going up. Both the NFL’s ever-increasing cap and another terrific season would enable Hicks to further make his case for something closer to the pact Campbell landed earlier this offseason. So, having already received one decent-sized payday in his career, it’s possible Hicks will bet on himself this year, go without an extension and try to play his way to Campbell-type money (if not more) by next winter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rams, Hicks, Vikings

Former Rams’ second-overall pick Greg Robinson was traded to the Lions earlier this week, and former first-overall pick Jared Goff said that he’ll miss his former lineman.

“When I woke up and saw that at first it was a little shocking,” Goff said (via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times). “But part of the business, man. It sucks. But Greg was a good teammate, a good friend and wish him the best.”

Robinson started all 14 of his games in 2016, his lone season protecting Goff. The quarterback ultimately played in seven games as a rookie, completing 54.6-percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Goff was also sacked a team-high 26 times.

Let’s take a look at some more NFC notes…

  • Defensive end Akiem Hicks had a chance to join the Patriots last offseason, but he took a more lucrative offer with the Bears. The 27-year-old ended up winning three games in Chicago, while New England ultimately won the Super Bowl. Despite this fact, Hicks doesn’t regret his decision. ‘‘Not in the slightest,’’ he told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘Because one of the reasons I came here was . . . a chance to rebuild. I had a chance to be a part of something growing. Being a prominent player [on the Patriots], I enjoyed that aspect of it. I think it’s going to benefit me going forward.’’
  • Vikings 2015 third-round pick Danielle Hunter is focused on earning a starting spot in 2016, and his apparent offseason body transformation has some of his teammates supporting that sentiment.“I feel like a few more pounds can be good,’’ Hunter, who gained five pounds of muscle, told Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com. “My goal was to just gain weight (during the offseason). I thought I was a little bit too light last year.’’ Hunter will presumably be competing with veteran Brian Robison for a starting gig.
  • Yesterday, commissioner Roger Goodell denied that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is getting blackballed by NFL owners.

Bears DL Akiem Hicks Seeking New Agent

On the verge of an important year, Akiem Hicks is looking to make a change in representation. The Bears defensive lineman has parted ways with agent Frank Murtha and is currently in the process of interviewing new potential agents, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Akiem Hicks (vertical)

I am a free agent that is almost a free agent,” said Hicks, who is entering a contract year. “You get it?

Hicks joined the Bears on a two-year, $10MM free agent deal after spending time with the Saints and Patriots in 2015. He’s set to earn $5MM this season and is hoping to land another lucrative deal for 2018 and beyond.

In his last go-round through free agency, Hicks chose a shorter deal with Chicago over a longer pact offered by the Patriots. His gamble has paid off and he is now eager to cash in.

I know it’s not always the best way to think of it with this being a business, but I want to get what I deserve or get what I have earned,” he said, while adding that he would like to stay in Chicago. “If I earned a new contract, that’s what I earned. If I don’t, that’s the case. It’s really not up to me. I get to put my stuff on the field and show them what I can do, but I can’t make them go upstairs and sign me to a different piece of paper.”

Hicks had a career-high 71 total tackles last season plus five tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He also played in a career-high 931 snaps, proving his durability. At a time when top defensive lineman are getting big dollars, the 27-year-old (28 in November) could be looking at a monster deal in the spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Rams, Saints

Bears edge rusher Willie Young acknowledged Wednesday that there have been contract extension talks between him and the team, saying (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com), “Yeah, there has been some stuff mentioned here and there, but that’s something that will be left up to my agent so I don’t get caught in the middle of it.” As of earlier this month, Young was reportedly “50/50” on whether to accept a two-year offer from the Bears. Chicago is trying to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old after he amassed a combined 16.5 sacks during his first two seasons in the Windy City, and he’s open to spending the rest of his career there. “I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago, but you know that’s not up to me; that’s up to my agent and management,” said Young, who will hit the open market next offseason if a deal isn’t reached by then.

More from the NFC:

  • Free agent safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner remain “in play” for the Rams, tweets Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News. If the Rams sign either, it won’t occur until after OTAs because the team wants to evaluate its in-house options, Bonsignore adds (Twitter link). Los Angeles hosted Whitner, a three-time Pro Bowler, in early April. Goldson, who has two Pro Bowl selections under his belt, met with the club earlier this month. PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranks Whitner as the best defensive free agent on the market.
  • Fellow free agent safety Roman Harper could rejoin the Saints, per FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez (via Twitter). Harper, whom the Saints took in the second round of the 2006 draft, spent his first eight seasons in New Orleans before signing with the division-rival Panthers in 2014. The 33-year-old proved to have a fair amount left in the tank last season for the NFC champions, starting all 19 of their games (playoffs included) while grading 53rd out of 89 qualifying safeties at Pro Football Focus.
  • Ex-Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached Harper in 2013, spoke negatively last week of his time on New Orleans’ staff. One of Ryan’s former pupils, now-Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, backed Ryan’s claim that the coordinator wasn’t running his own scheme during his final two years with the Saints. “Not to talk about New Orleans for the rest of this interview, but as a player in that system, you can see when power is taken away from a guy,” Hicks said Wednesday, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “It was evident in that situation and you saw what the turnout was because of it.” Hicks also praised Ryan as a person, stating, “I didn’t see the interview, but I do know this, I’ll forever and always have a lot of love for Rob Ryan, just because there’s nobody that’s going to shoot you straighter.”

AFC FA Rumors: Weddle, Holmes, Fitzpatrick

The Steelers were among the teams rumored to be in the hunt for safety Eric Weddle, who ultimately agreed to join the division-rival Ravens, but Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) hears that Pittsburgh didn’t make a formal contract offer to the safety. According to La Canfora, the Steelers stopped monitoring Weddle’s market over the weekend, shifting their focus to landing an offensive tackle.

Meanwhile, the Patriots were also a team frequently cited as a potential suitor for Weddle, but New England wasn’t one of the finalists for his services, according to Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Schrager notes that Weddle and his agent spent a few hours this morning “going back and forth with two teams.” One of those clubs was the Ravens, but the identity of the second team remains unclear.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Raiders are making a push to bring back wide receiver Andre Holmes, tweets Bill Williamson of Fanrag Sports. Williamson cautions that nothing is done yet, and there’s no guarantee Holmes will return to Oakland, but the two sides appear headed toward a reunion for now.
  • While there’s a belief that the Jets will eventually increase their offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and find a middle ground, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if Fitzpatrick may not give them the opportunity, possibly having been insulted by a lowball offer. Of course, for that to happen, the free agent quarterback will need to find a suitable offer elsewhere.
  • According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (via Twitter), Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called Akiem Hicks last night in a last-ditch effort to keep him in New England. The defensive tackle ultimately signed with the Bears instead, and Howe suggests that the Pats’ offer was for more years, but at a lower annual salary.
  • Former Ravens safety and special-teamer Brynden Trawick, who was non-tendered by Baltimore, is paying a visit to the Bengals, tweets Joe Goodberry of CincyJungle.com.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald isn’t sure why the Dolphins are interested in veteran defensive end Chris Clemons.