The New England Patriots have lost their only priority free agent of the offseason as defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bears.
While the Patriots were always hopeful that Hicks would return, there were two teams that were more willing to pony up cash to make Hicks a cornerstone of the defense, instead of a rotational piece with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, and Dominique Easley.
The Lions and Bears (oh my!) were both jockeying for Hicks' services, while the Patriots had tapped out due to the still-unreported price tag.
The Lions are led by general manager, and former Patriots director of pro scouting, Bob Quinn, who was the reason that New England acquired Hicks in the first place. Quinn and company have essentially been sniping all of the Patriots top targets over the past week.
Detroit signed former Patriots safety Tavon Wilson, and then a few players that were towards the top of the Patriots list in wide receiver Marvin Jones, linebacker Johnson Bademosi, and defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker. Hicks would have been another reason for the Patriots to probably be ticked off at the Lions offseason movements.
Instead, Hicks went to Chicago, where general manager Ryan Pace has been putting together one beastly defensive front seven. Pace was a part of the New Orleans Saints front office that drafted Hicks, so the Bears will also be familiar with how to best deploy the defensive tackle.
Hicks will plug into the starting line-up of a 3-4 front that features 2014 2nd round pick Ego Ferguson, 2014 3rd round pick Will Sutton, and 2015 2nd round pick Eddie Goldman. While Ferguson and Sutton were drafted before Pace's arrival, there is plenty of talent on the line that will be worth monitoring.
The Bears have also invested heavily at the linebacker position, adding Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman from the Broncos and Colts, respectively (thanks, Chicago!), to go along with 2014 free agent crown jewel edge defender Lamarr Houston and 2015 free agent crown jewel edge defender Pernell McPhee.
Hicks' contract is rumored to be around the $6 million average per season, which would likely net the Patriots a high 5th, or maybe even a low 4th if the Bears through crazy money in his direction. Not bad for half a year of service.