Chicago Bears fans have tried to get the rest of the NFL to realize the truth about Akiem Hicks. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in football. A brutish mauler who can destroy blocking schemes regardless of situation. However, this has proven difficult. The primary reason has to do with how he’s reached this point in his career. It didn’t come the traditional way, that much is certain.
Hicks was a 3rd round pick in 2013 by the New Orleans Saints. He showed early initial promise and looked destined to become a starter for them. However, circumstances changes. Head coach Sean Payton changed defensive coordinators in 2015, forcing Hicks to shift to defensive end in their 4-3 system. He knew this was a bad idea but went along with it. When he struggled, they benched him.
This led to heated words with Payton and it got bad enough to a point where the Saints eventually traded him to New England. Something Hicks still hasn’t forgiven them for. The defensive tackle quickly rebuilt his reputation with the Patriots and entered 2016 free agency as one of the more coveted defensive names on the market.
What people may not realize today is that when Hicks first started fielding called, the Bears weren’t even on his radar.
Akiem Hicks credits one person for changing his mind on Chicago
Hicks spoke to Dan Pompei of The Athletic about his career up to this point. The 2016 free agency period was one that stood out because he was in demand. Several different teams were interested in him. New England wanted to bring him back and the rival New York Jets were trying to undercut them. Even the Green Bay Packers tried to get in on the action.
That’s when an unexpected source swung things in Chicago’s favor.
By the time he became a free agent in the offseason, he had revived himself, and he had revived his reputation around the league. The Patriots wanted him back. The Texans, Seahawks and Packers called. Quinn, who by then was the general manager of the Lions, also made a bid. The Jets made a push.
At the time, the Bears were not a destination team. Over the previous two seasons, they had an 11-21 record. But they were an attractive option to Hicks’ mother, who grew up on Sangamon St. on the South Side before moving to California when she was 16.
“She always talked about Chicago,” Hicks said. “And when I told her my options, she said, ‘Chicago?’ She was so excited.”
Hicks had a trust factor with Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who was part of the front office that drafted him in New Orleans, and he accepted the Bears’ two-year, $10 million offer.
This is proof again that money isn’t always the primary motivating factor behind the decisions of a player in free agency. There is no tell what or who might sway them one way or another. Bears fans can be exceedingly grateful Momma Hicks steered her boy to Chicago. It’s a decision the man doesn’t regret in the slightest.