Thanks to the Denver Broncos coaching search, we’re getting a very late start on profiling some key free agents ahead of the new league year. Scheme has a lot to do with who makes sense as a FA and who doesn’t.
The Broncos have only a few defensive linemen potentially leaving this offseason - DeShawn Williams and Shamar Stephen - but linemen are still an underrated need to fill in free agency as Shelby Harris and Dre’Mont Jones are the only two true starters still on the roster. And the right free agent with the right (aka cheap) contract is always a good consideration. Especially for a defensive line that could use more pass rushers and run stoppers.
Akiem Hicks looking at Matt Stafford = me looking at my pizza rolls spinning in the microwave pic.twitter.com/fPKiLYLO0v— Sleeper (@SleeperHQ) September 13, 2021
Weight: 340 pounds
Age: 32 years old
Experience: 10 seasons
Why it makes sense
Akiem Hicks is no doubt in the twilight of his career, but it has been a noteworthy career and there could be some spark left to help a strong defense in one of its weakest areas - rushing the passer.
With his 35-inch arms and 84-inch wingspan, Hicks’ 340-pound frame can wreak some havoc on quarterbacks. Hicks started his career in 2012 as a third-round pick for New Orleans, but his production really took off when he joined the Chicago Bears in 2016.
In his first three seasons with the Bears, Hicks averaged nearly 8 sacks a year. Although his last three years have been riddled with injury, in his nine games played this past season, Hicks logged 3.5 sacks plus 19 solo tackles and 9 QB hits.
Hicks also plays with an intensity every defense needs but also a love for the game every locker room wants.
Listening to writers for Windy City Gridiron who have followed his career in Chicago, Hicks seems like a perfect addition to the Broncos’ defense.
“His attitude, on and off the field, helped shape the Bears for the past six years. He plays with a fiery attitude and demeanor while never seeming like he isn’t having fun. I wish we could’ve seen him more healthy than not over the past three years because I think that’s the only reason he won’t be back.” - Sam Householder
“Hicks became a staple on the defenses of both excellent and bad Bears teams alike and led by example with phenomenal interior play. He was a space-eater against the run, a vicious pass-rusher, a Vikings killer, and the clear heart and soul of the defense from the day he first donned navy and orange.” - Robert Schmitz
Why it doesn’t make sense
Age and injuries are the biggest hurdles to gambling with a contract for Hicks. Missing time due to COVID-19 as well as an ankle injury in 2021 - combined with the fact that he has missed 19 games since 2019 - makes it risky to bring in Hicks.
“Hicks was yet another established veteran seeking a well-deserved contract extension prior to the 2021 season, with his agent Drew Rosenhaus going so far as to spend a few days at Bears training camp in an effort to get something done. Nevertheless, no agreement was reached, and Hicks then battled a nagging groin injury in his contract year. He still maintained his very high floor of play, earning a 72.3 grade (23rd), driven by a strong 71.9 pass-rush grade (29th).” - Pro Football Focus, DL free agent rank: 23
It’s not wrong to think Denver would improve with Hicks on the line - as long as he can stay on the field.
Assuming he has a few more years without spending most of it on the bench, I could see a two-year contract being worth the risk for the right price. Hicks averaged $12 million a year in his contract with the Bears, so a yearly contract in the range of $7-8 million seems fair for a 32-year-old just coming off injury.
What do you think?
Should the Broncos sign Akiem Hicks as a free agent?
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