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2016 Free Agency: DT Akiem Hicks Not Expected to Sign Wednesday, Shopping His Options While Market Stabilizes

The fat lady isn't singing, but she's warming up her pipes for the Patriots and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

The Patriots midseason acquisition apparently has 12 teams after his services, per CBS Chicago's Chris Emma, which doesn't bode well for the Patriots chances of retaining Hicks.

New England want hoping for an NFL draft flush with talent, as well as some quality alternatives in free agency, to deter teams from jockeying for Hicks' services to drive up his price. Instead, we've seen teams with money burning through their pockets as they try to spend as much of it as possible.

For Hicks, he has to play the delicate balance of making sure he's maximizing his value on the market, while also not waiting too long for when the money is spent. The Herald's Jeff Howe believes that Hicks won't sign on the opening day of free agency.

While I originally placed the ceiling of Hicks' contract at $5 million per year, it's quite possible that teams are willing to spend far beyond that amount.

The Lions brought back defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a 2-year, $12 million deal, while the 49ers retained defensive tackle Ian Williams on a 5-year, $27.5 million contract, and the Chiefs held on to Jaye Howard on a 2-year, $12 million deal. That $5.5-6.0 million range could be more in line with Hicks' offers on the open market due to the combination of his youth, potential, and natural ability.

My argument for Hicks to return with the Patriots on a 2-year, $11 million Jabaal Sheard-like contract, or even a 1-year, $5 million Aqib Talib-like contract would be for him to boost his value with the Patriots before cashing in.

Hicks was traded midseason for a 4th string tight end because he had little perceived value by those around the league. The Patriots turned him into a hot commodity that is worth sniffing around during free agency. If Hicks stays with New England for another season, he could step up from a $5.5 million per year deal like Williams to a $9.2 million per year deal like Derek Wolfe, or even a $14.2 million per year deal like Malik Jackson.

Of course, if one of those 12 teams is already offering a boatload of money (and that's quite possible in this market), then it would make sense for Hicks to take the money and not risk a potential injury in 2016. But we'll have to wait until tomorrow, or even later, to see where Hicks will play in 2016.