The Chicago Bears have some tough decisions regarding their in-house free agents. Several notable names are coming out of contract. Allen Robinson, James Daniels, and Bilal Nichols are some of the biggest. Yet perhaps the most challenging is Akiem Hicks. There is no question that when he was on the field, the veteran defensive lineman was still a force. Somebody that clogged running lanes and harassed quarterbacks with interior pressure. To say nothing of his obvious presence as a leader.
This doesn’t erase two significant issues. Hicks turns 33-years old this year. A factor made even more inescapable knowing that he has now missed 19 combined games since 2019 with various injuries. It is becoming difficult to trust whether his body can withstand the rigors of a full NFL schedule anymore. Hicks seems to think he can. He envisions himself playing 3-4 more years, and he’d like to stay in Chicago. That leaves the elephant in the room.
How much he’ll expect to get paid.
Hicks has been paid roughly $10 million per year since 2017. He was worth the money for most of that time, but that is no longer the case. The question is whether he expects to continue making that much. If that is true, the Bears should shake his hand and wish him luck in free agency. If he is willing to lower the price tag, then maybe something can be worked out. This offseason, Pro Football Focus did contract projections for the top 200 free agents. Here is what they expect Akiem Hicks to likely fetch.
“Contract Projection: Two years, $17 million ($8.5M per year, $12.5 million total guaranteed)
We’re a few years removed from Hicks’ elite 2018 season that saw him rank fourth among interior defensive linemen with a 91.7 overall grade. Hicks has otherwise been an above-average run defender and pass-rusher, though we’ve seen some decline in his game as he gets into his 30s. He’s missed significant time in two of the last three seasons.”
The idea behind such a contract is simple. It is a win-win for both sides. Hicks gets paid something close to what he was making before (just a loss of $1.5 million per year) while the contract is kept shorter at just two years. This gives the Bears an easy exit strategy if the veteran ends up continuing to decline due to age, injuries, or both. Would GM Ryan Poles be willing to offer that kind of deal? Much of that depends on whether head coach Matt Eberflus sees a place for Hicks in his new Tampa-2 defensive alignment.