A few months ago it looked like the Chicago Bears were preparing to blow up their defense. Salary cap problems brought on by the pandemic put them in a difficult spot. One where they wouldn’t be able to make any meaningful changes to the roster without cap space. So GM Ryan Pace was put in a tough spot. One where he might have to sacrifice two of his best players on defense in Kyle Fuller and Akiem Hicks to secure $21.5 million. Fuller was eventually released while Hicks seemed poised to go as well via a possible trade.

However, after some tense days of waiting, things seemed to ease. Reports emerged that Chicago had apparently decided to hang onto Hicks rather than trade him. A welcome development for their defensive line. One that will be needed in the coming season if this team is going to compete. Then again, as we all know, the offseason is unpredictable. It might be possible the Hicks saga isn’t over yet.

One insider warns as much.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN wrote a column detailing a series of trades he believes are possible in the near future. In a bit of a surprise, Hicks was one of them. This is the first indication that the trade smoke may not have entirely died out. Fowler suggests that a number of teams around the league are still monitoring his situation and could be preparing a push for his services within the next month.

“Chicago has allowed Hicks and agent Drew Rosenhaus to gauge trade interest, as the Chicago Tribune reported in March. There are no recent developments here. For now, he’s still a Bear.

Some teams believe Hicks is a top-five interior disruptor, but his age (31) could prevent them from giving up draft capital and signing him to a new deal. Hicks, a 2022 free agent, is due a total of $10.5 million this year.

This one could heat up closer to training camp.”

The immediate question is why would the Bears do this? After releasing Charles Leno, they aren’t hard-pressed for cap space anymore. This is true, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Remember as stated above Hicks is a free agent next year. He’ll be 32 in November and he’s coming off his worst statistical season since coming to Chicago. Combine that with the fact they have just five picks in the 2022 draft? It does make sense from a long-term perspective.

Akiem Hicks status depends on two key factors

The first being how much money he’s seeking in a new contract. If it’s around the same neighborhood as he’s been making the past few years? The odds are strong the Bears aren’t going to pay him that. It’s more likely he’d have to take some sort of pay reduction in order to secure more long-term security. The other factor is interest from other teams. What could they end up offering from his services?

As Fowler said, it’s still too early to tell. Usually around training camp is whether other teams have a grasp of where their rosters are at. There is also the possibility of health setbacks. Were someone on a defensive line to get hurt, the idea of landing Akiem Hicks via trade would sound infinitely more appealing. The Bears though aren’t likely to let him go for pennies. A 6th or 7th round pick? No way. He is worth more to them on the roster than that.

Somewhere between a 3rd and 5th? Then things get interesting.

Nobody wants to see Hicks go. He’s been a tremendous player on that defense since the day he arrived back in 2016. Sadly this is the nature of the business. None but the absolute best tend to stick around on one team for their entire careers and even that is rare. Here is hoping things turn out as they should.