The No. 1 spot in our top-15 free agent signings all-time for the Bears belongs to defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. He is still a member of their team heading into the 2019 season.
Hicks began his career in 2012 with the New Orleans Saints where he was a solid starter, but not spectacular. After three seasons in the Bayou, Hicks was traded to the New England Patriots in exchange for backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.
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While with the Patriots, he did at least experience some success, as the team made it to the AFC Championship game. However, Hicks was not retained by New England.
He hit free agency following a campaign that saw him record 21 tackles and three sacks in 13 games while playing a rotational role for the Patriots.
That was enough for the Bears to sign him to a two-year deal before the 2016 season. They looked brilliant for that making that move.
Hicks thrived as pass rushing defensive lineman for Chicago, as he had 54 tackles and seven sacks in his first season with the Bears. They then signed him to a four-year extension worth up to $48 million, which now looks like an absolute steal.
Hicks followed up his breakout season with 54 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2017 and another 55 tackles and 7.5 sacks this past season. His play was integral in them winning the NFC North. He will likely be a big key to their puzzle in 2019 as well.
The best part is that no one really saw this coming back when the Bears originally signed the big man away from the Patriots. This is part of why he falls into the No. 1 spot in this ranking. Hicks has his opportunity to put some distance from Julius Peppers, who has decided to hang up the spikes this offseason after an outstanding NFL career out of North Carolina.