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Patriots Still One of 11 Teams in the Running for Free Agent DT Akiem Hicks

The New England Patriots have picked up the 2016 option for defensive tackle Alan Branch to keep control of the veteran, but the team is still holding out hope that they can bring free agent defensive tackle Akiem Hicks back for another season or three.

But it appears that the Patriots are competing with ten other teams for Hicks' services which is insane. Remember that the Patriots acquired Hicks in the middle of the 2015 season from the Saints in exchange for their 4th string tight end (TE Michael Hoomanawanui actually just signed a three-year deal with the Saints, and the Patriots wanted him back per the Globe's Ben Volin). The fact that Hicks is now a hot commodity is a testament to the Patriots ability to resurrect players from the dead in the middle of the year.

Just like with cornerback Aqib Talib, and linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas, Hicks could now cash in on a big deal- although it probably won't be as big as it could be.

While Hicks finished the 2015 season as one of the hottest players in the league, he still has some depreciated value from being traded in the middle of the season.

Broncos free agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson just signed a ridiculous 6-year, $90 million deal with the Jaguars, and fellow Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe signed a 4-year, $36.7 million deal to stay in Denver. Hicks won't be able to touch those contract values this year.

But next year? Possibly. Locking into a contract this year could have a serious impact on his future earnings, with a hedge against an injury in 2016. Perhaps I'm being a little selfish, but I think that it would be in Hicks' best interest to stay with the Patriots for another season or two at a price tag slightly below his long-term offers from other team, and then Hicks could re-enter the free agency market at the age of 27 or 28 ready for a monster contract.

Talib stuck around the Patriots in 2013 for a single-season $4.9 million deal and cashed in on a 6-year, $57 million contract with the Broncos in 2014. In one year, Talib went from a $5 million contract being viewed as "too rich", to signing a deal for nearly $10 million per season. Hicks could pull the same magic trick with another year in New England.