September 20th, 2022 at 4:18pm CST by Sam Robinson
Akiem Hicks could be looking at an IR stint. The Buccaneers defensive lineman suffered a torn plantar fascia, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) he will miss at least a month.
The Bucs still have most of their Super Bowl LV starters on defense, but Hicks joined as a free agent this offseason. He and Logan Ryan represent two experienced veterans now part of Tampa Bay’s talented defense. But the longtime Bears defender will be out of the mix for a while.
The foot injury forced Hicks out of action against the Saints on Sunday; he played 19 defensive snaps. This will mark a third time in four seasons in which an injury will sideline Hicks for an extended period. Groin and ankle maladies shelved the former Pro Bowler last season — a nine-game campaign — while an elbow injury limited Hicks to just five games in 2019.
Tampa Bay has second-round rookie Logan Hall as its likely top Hicks replacement. The team brought back veteran William Gholston and has nose tackle Vita Vea healthy. Hall is not a one-for-one Hicks replacement, however, with the latter weighing north of 330 pounds. In Vea and Hicks, the Bucs had a mammoth interior tandem in place. It will be an adjustment for Todd Bowles‘ defense, though Vea’s presence makes a Hicks absence easier to withstand.
Having allowed just 13 points, the Bucs lead the NFL in scoring defense. They had Hicks ticketed to fill the void created by Ndamukong Suh‘s departure. Suh had been a Bucs starter for three seasons, never missing a game. The team opted to let the All-Decade defensive tackle walk in free agency. Although Suh said he had spoken with Bucs coaches about re-signing, the team pivoted to Hicks on a one-year, $8MM deal ($6.5MM guaranteed). Suh, 34, remains unsigned.
Over the past six years, the Vikings have seen plenty of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, playing him twice per year while he was with their division-rivals in Chicago. According to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minnesota, when he hit the free agent market this offseason, the Vikings showed early interest in keeping Hicks in the division. The interest failed to materialize into deal, though, as Hicks signed with the Buccaneers this week.
The 32-year-old Hicks has enjoyed success in the NFC North, recording 31.0 of his 40.5 career sacks with the Bears, as well as 51.0 of his 73.0 career tackles for loss and 88 of his 111 career quarterback hits. The Vikings would’ve loved to pair Hicks next to Dalvin Tomlinson and Armon Watts, as he would serve as a bit of an upgrade over projected-starter Harrison Phillips on the defensive line. Unfortunately, though, Hicks will head back down to the NFC South as Tampa Bay looks to replace the production of free agent departures Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC North, starting with another rumor from the Twin Cities:
After five seasons with the Rams specializing as a blocking tight end, newly acquired Viking Johnny Mundt is eager to redefine his career in Minnesota, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. During his time in Los Angeles, Mundt only ever caught 10 passes for 93 yards and is still looking for his first career receiving touchdown. Mundt will compete with Ben Ellefson and the rookie out of South Carolina, Nick Muse, for the No. 2 tight end spot behind Irv Smith Jr. Mundt followed former Rams head coach Kevin O’Connell and former Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Wes Phillips in their move to Minnesota. Phillips believes in Mundt’s ability and experience and will likely call on Mundt to expand his career into a more complete tight end.
As a rookie, Lions defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu got his playing time covering the slot and outside as a cornerback. Detroit drafted him with the versatility he showed in college in mind, though, and plan on seeing him at safety for some snaps this season, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. A quad injury limited his development last year, as he spent 10 weeks on injured reserve and had a limited return to the field when he was activated. Second-year defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn says he always envisioned Melifonwu being a Swiss army knife in the Lions’ secondary. As he enters the 2022 NFL season healthy, Melifonwu should get his opportunity to audition for that role.
Third-year Lions defender Julian Okwara has been spending time in two position rooms this year, according to Lions staff writer Tim Twentyman, as he works with both defensive line coach Todd Wash and linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard. Twentyman reports that the Lions are “cross-training him as both an on-the-ball defensive end and an off-the-ball linebacker.” Okwara has spent most of his time in the NFL as a defensive end, the position he primarily played at Notre Dame, as well. Head coach Dan Campbell explained, “We consider him in base as a linebacker, more of a SAM linebacker or on the edge. In sub or in nickel, he becomes more of that defensive end.”
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.
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.
Poles’ stated goal to “be selective in free agency” might not include Robinson or Hicks. The former has made it clear that he was not a fan of ex-HC Matt Nagy in particular, and of the offensive direction of the team more generally. The 28-year-old posted 38 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown last season, a far cry from his 1,100-plus yard seasons in the two previous campaigns.
Robinson signed his franchise tender last year, with many feeling it may be his final season in the Windy City. As Jahns writes, “aligning with a veteran quarterback is arguably in his best interests”, either as part of a long-term deal closer to the $14MM per year he originally agreed to in Chicago, or on a shorter pact to prove he can still play at an elite level.
As for Hicks, frustrations with the franchise could again be a deciding factor in his plans. As Jahns notes, even tough nearly the entire defensive staff has been replaced, the 32-year-old could look elsewhere on the open market – a stark turnaround from preseason reports that he was looking to stay in Chicago. With injuries becoming a concern in recent years, Hicks is still amongst the most disruptive interior linemen in the league, recording seven total sacks in the last two seasons. However, Jahns writes, “Hicks seemed to sense that his time was ending with the Bears” towards the end of the regular season. Regardless of where he ends up, Hicks will likely not be able to match the $12MM annual average he was making on his soon-to-be expired contract.
In the case of both players, Jahns predicts that they will leave in free agency, leaving the Bears to focus on other priorities, such as offensive linemen James Daniels. If Robinson and Hicks do depart, they will leave Chicago with plenty of cap space to work with, but also a significant number of additions needing to be made to rebound from 2021’s disappointing performance.
The Bears briefly entertained the prospect of trading standout defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, but they reconsidered and brought the former All-Pro back for his sixth season in Chicago. Shortly after free agency began, the Bears gave Hicks permission to find a trade partner. Nothing materialized, but the Chargers were monitoring this situation through the preseason, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Hicks, 31, has a history with Bolts HC Brandon Staley, who was on the Bears’ defensive staff — as outside linebackers coach — under Vic Fangio from 2017-18. The 11th-year veteran’s contract expires at season’s end. Should the Bears falter against a tough October schedule, Hicks could be a name to watch as the Nov. 2 trade deadline approaches. The $7MM-plus left on his 2021 salary would be a difficult accommodation for most teams, but that number will drop closer to $5MM by the deadline. A groin injury sidelined Hicks in Week 5, but he remains on the Bears’ active roster.
Here is the latest from the West divisions:
Staying on the trade front, the Broncos received inquiries on their two contract-year corners — Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan — along with Ronald Darby. The veteran defenders came up in talks leading up to the season, but new Denver GM George Paton set a fairly high asking price. The Broncos sought a third- or fourth-round pick in a deal for one of their vets, Fowler adds, scuttling talks. The Saints made a strong push for Fuller, which came months after New Orleans’ aggressive pursuit of Denver’s No. 9 overall pick — which was used to take Patrick Surtain II. While Denver has made multiple deadline deals in recent years, involving receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it would likely take a tumble out of contention for the team to deal from its corner surplus.
The Cardinals are likely to be without Chandler Jones as they attempt to move their unbeaten run to 6-0. While vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 can return after two negative tests 24 hours apart, Kliff Kingsbury said Jones is experiencing symptoms and that it would be “a stretch” for him to play against the Browns, via SI.com’s Howard Balzer (on Twitter). Jones is vaccinated. News of the veteran pass rusher’s positive test circulated Tuesday, creating a narrow window for him to recover in time.
Arizona will also be without center Rodney Hudson. The acclaimed O-lineman is battling a rib injury, and Kingsbury declared him out Wednesday. Seventh-year pro Max Garcia will step in for the Cards’ Pro Bowl snapper.
Pete Carroll said Tre Flowers did not request to be waived, Condotta adds (via Twitter). The Flowers transaction went through Wednesday, so a claim would surface by Thursday afternoon — if a team is to claim the fourth-year cornerback. The Seahawks have used former second-round pick Sidney Jones in Flowers’ place in the past two games.
Akiem Hicks‘ 2016 Chicago arrival helped the Bears form one of the NFL’s best defenses over the past five years, but the veteran defensive lineman’s contract is up after this season. The Pro Bowler is aiming to extend his Windy City tenure.
The 11th-year veteran wants to sign a second Bears extension in order to finish his career in Chicago, according to his agent. Hicks’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was in Chicago on Thursday advocating for his client, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This extension hope comes not long after Hicks popped up in trade rumors.
After missing most of the 2019 season, Hicks bounced back and played in 15 games last year. While the sack total (3.5) did not match his three previous full seasons, which each featured seven-plus sacks, Hicks tallied a career-high 21 quarterback hits for a Bears team that rode its No. 8-ranked DVOA defense back to the playoffs. The 31-year-old D-lineman is set to earn $10.4MM in base salary, closing out the final season of the four-year, $48MM extension he agreed to in 2017.
It looked for a bit like the Bears were planning to move on from Hicks, whom they gave permission to seek a trade in March. The team made Kyle Fuller a surprise cap casualty that week, but shortly after the trade rumor surfaced, the Bears regrouped and held onto Hicks. The Bears do not have much invested at defensive end beyond Hicks, so plans will need to be made for the future soon — regardless of Hicks’ post-2021 status with the team.
In an eventful week for the Bears, Akiem Hicksemerged on the trade block. The standout defensive lineman is entering the final year of his contract. However, a trade may not end up materializing.
The Bears now look likely to keep Hicks for the 2021 season, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs (on Twitter). Hicks is due a $10.4MM salary next season.
The former All-Pro interior defender is entering the final season of his four-year, $48MM contract. The interior defender market has moved significantly since Hicks signed that deal in September 2017. Most notably, Leonard Williams is now attached to a three-year, $63MM pact. Hicks may push for an extension, with Biggs previously noting his contract was a key matter in a potential trade. As of now, an extension does not appear to be in the cards.
Keeping Hicks would allow the Bears some stability on a defense that just lost top cornerback Kyle Fuller, who officially became a cap casualty Saturday. Hicks has been with the Bears since signing a two-year, $10MM contract in 2016. While Hicks missed most of the 2019 season due to injury, he returned to play 15 games last season. He will turn 32 later this year.
Hicks is entering the final year of a four-year, $48MM extension he signed with Chicago in 2017. The 31-year-old is set to earn $10.MM in 2021, and Biggs writes that the defensive lineman would want a “substantial raise” if he’s to be traded. Biggs also notes that the requested extension is “unlikely” to materialize.
Hicks spent the first three-plus seasons of his career with the Saints before getting traded to the Patriots in 2015. He joined the Bears on a two-year deal the following offseason, and he quickly established himself as a starter on Chicago’s defensive line. Hicks compiled 23 sacks for the Bears between the 2016 and 2018 seasons, earning a Pro Bowl nod during that latter campaign.
The veteran was limited to only five games in 2019 after suffering an elbow injury, but he managed to start all 15 of his appearances in 2020. He ultimately finished the campaign having collected 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 21 QB hits.
Following the signings of quarterback Andy Dalton and offensive lineman Germain Ifedi (and Allen Robinson‘s decision to opt for the franchise tender), the Bears have been looking for ways to carve out cap space. The team moved on from former All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller earlier today.
The Bears will bring back one of their top players for Week 15’s pivotal game against the Packers. Akiem Hicks is officially back on Chicago’s 53-man roster after spending eight weeks on IR.
Hicks has not played since the Bears’ Week 5 game, but the team did not place the Pro Bowl defensive end on IR until before its Week 7 contest. To make room on their 53-man roster, the Bears placed tight end Ben Braunecker on IR. Braunecker’s season will end because of a concussion.
Despite the Bears sitting at 4-6 in a high-caliber NFC playoff race in mid-November, Matt Nagy refused to shut down Hicks. The fourth-year Bear returned to practice less than two weeks ago and is set to return to his starting role — for a 7-6 Bears team — Sunday.
A former Saints third-round pick who’s emerged as one of the game’s top interior defensive linemen, Hicks was a key reason for the Bears’ defensive ascent last season. He registered at least seven sacks in each of the past three seasons, combining for 36 tackles for loss in that span as well. The 30-year-old lineman will obviously not run that streak to four but will stand to help the Bears in what is essentially a must-win game in Green Bay.