When the New England Patriots traded veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to the New Orleans Saints for defensive tackle Akiem Hicks last September, the move was not seen as a major transaction. However, Hicks slowly turned into a valuable member of the Patriots' defensive tackle rotation, especially after Dominique Easley was placed on injured reserve.
Overall, Hicks had a solid first season in New England - which turned him into a quality free agent, who has reportedly drawn interest from multiple teams. Among those teams are the Detroit Lions, who are "likely" to finalize a deal with the 26-year old defensive tackle soon (via Jason LaCanfora):
Jets working out a contract with DL Jarvis Jenkins. Lions working to secure DL Akiem Hicks. Both deals likely to get done
While it would be nice to retain Hicks, it seems like the chances of him returning to New England are slim. It would not be a surprise to find out that his pricetag reached a level too high for the Patriots' liking, especially considering his role. After all, Hicks - even though he was a solid addition last year - was a rotational player and not a starter last season.
If Hicks does indeed join the Lions, the Patriots' defensive tackle depth chart would consist of Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown and Alan Branch as the likely candidates to make the 53-man roster, with Chris Jones and recently signed Frank Kearse as the top backup options.