Chicago Bears Sign DE Akiem Hicks

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports /
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s about time Akiem! After spending all weekend in Chicago the Bears have finally locked down a two-year deal with defensive linemen Akeim Hicks. The Bears have been pursuing Hicks from the beginning of free agency with multiple sources saying Hicks was GM Ryan Pace’s 2nd free agency priority after ILB Danny Trevathan. Defensive line was the Bears biggest need in free agency with inside linebacker a close second.

Last year the Bears ended the season starting three defensive linemen (Scruggs, Unrein, & Gaston) who were signed off the street during the season. Adding talent on the defensive line was crucial for the Bears to have any chance at significantly improving their defense in 2016. 2nd year nose tackle Eddie Goldman gives the Bears a solid presence in the middle, but he had little talent around him until the Bears signed Hicks today.

Now the Bears have a prototype DE with massive size (6’5, 325), the explosive power to toss linemen out of his way, the ability to take on double teams against the run, and surprising enough quickness to generate occasional pass rush. Hicks was Bears GM Adam Pace’s first draft pick with the Saints as a project out of Manitoba, Canada. His play has been inconsistent since, but his stats have improved steadily every season since being drafted and during the 2nd half of 2015 with the Patriots, Hicks showed flashes of being a true impact player as a 5-tech DE.

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Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

According to Pro Football Focus, Hicks graded out positively against both the run and pass during the second half of last season with the Patriots and at only 26 years old has the potential to be an impact player with the Bears at DE over the next couple of seasons. All of the physical attributes are in place for Hicks to be a force off the edge for the Bears this year and teamed with Goldman, the recovering Ego Ferguson, Cornelius Washington (if he’s ever healthy), and a draft pick or two from the most talented d-line class in recent memory… Hicks could be the key piece in a Bears defensive line that could go from a weakness to a strength just like the inside linebacker position has become in the last few days.

Bears GM Ryan Pace went into the off-season with the worst group of ILBs in the league and one of the worst group of d-linemen as well. A week later the Bears have arguably the best ILB combo in the league and are maybe one or two d-linemen from making that a position of significant strength as well.

There are going to be top d-linemen available in both the first and second rounds of this year’s draft to add to Hicks and existing talent like Eddie Goldman, Ego Ferguson, and potentially healthy players like Cornelius Washington, Eddie Sutton, and Terry Williams…  so the Bears shouldn’t find themselves in the position again of starting three d-linemen not on the opening day roster (though Gaston showed enough to potentially be kept around). GM Ryan Pace deserves some credit for identifying the biggest two weak spots on last year’s defense and fixing them within the first week of free agency.