Former Bears DT Akiem Hicks Signs with Buccaneers

With Tom Brady returning for another season, Tampa Bay is probably a nice destination for a veteran hoping to add a Super Bowl ring to his career resume. Akiem Hicks thinks so, and the former Bears’ defensive tackle agreed to a one-year deal with the Buccaneers that will pay him up to $10 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Hicks played six seasons in Chicago and became an unrestricted free agent once the 2021 season ended. He registered 23 sacks from 2016 through 2018 but his production dropped dramatically after. The 32-year-old battled groin and ankle injuries last year and totaled just 3.5 sacks in nine starts. He also tallied five tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits. Hicks has missed 20 games due to injuries over the past three seasons.

The defensive tackle was considered a marquee acquisition when GM Ryan Pace signed him to a two-year contract in 2016 as a defensive end. He signed a four-year $48 million extension in 2017 and followed that with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018, his first and only to date. Chicago rode its defense to a postseason appearance that year, their first season under Matt Nagy.

Hicks’ one-year contract value is slightly higher than the $9 million Ndamukong Suh earned with the Buccaneers in 2021, a season in which he recorded six sacks and 27 tackles in 17 games. By adding the ex-Bear, Tampa Bay will likely part ways with Suh after three seasons.

Hicks was a third-round pick of the Saints in 2012, and previously played with Brady in New England after the Patriots acquired him mid-way through the 2015 campaign. The veteran lineman had hoped to sign an extension with the Bears before becoming a free agent, but no deal was ever reached. New GM Ryan Poles has rebuilt Chicago’s defensive line, adding Al-Quadin Muhammad and Justin Jones as free agents, and he drafted EDGE/LB Dominique Robinson last month.

An unsourced rumor a few weeks ago indicated Robert Quinn had requested a trade but nothing came of that. Khyiris Tonga will replace Hicks in the Bears’ new 4-3 defensive alignment, and Robinson and Trevis Gipson will likely rotate on the EDGE with Quinn and Muhammad.

Hicks was a fan favorite, and many Bears fans were hoping Poles might reach out to keep him in the fold. The front office and coaching staff are comfortable giving Tonga his shot. The rookie GM was handed a pretty big mess when he took over for Pace, and has spent the bulk of the offseason putting the Bears in a position to strike big after the 2022 season. That included trading another revered defensive player, linebacker Khalil Mack, to the Chargers for two draft picks, the first of which was used to acquire safety Jaquan Brisker.

Poles parlayed the second pick, a sixth-rounder in 2023, into picks 254 and 255 in this year’s draft. Those selections netted safety Elijah Hicks and punter Trenton Gill. With Hicks leaving for Tampa Bay, Chicago returns just four defensive starters from last year, Quinn, Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson, and Eddie Jackson. Gipson started nine games last season after Mack went down with an injury.


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