The New England Patriots have become masters of midseason acquisitions as director of player personnel Nick Caserio and his team of scouts have done a tremendous job of finding quality players that were stuck in the wrong scheme.
Last year's find was former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. The Patriots acquired Hicks in exchange for the Patriots 4th tight end on the depth chart, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Hicks eventually became one of the best defensive tackles in the league down the stretch.
Hicks was caught in a bad position in New Orleans, but leveraged his time in New England into a good contract as a starter for the Chicago Bears this offseason. Hicks opened up to the media about his experience going from New Orleans to New England this past week.
"You can't ever ask an athlete if they were off track, right?," Hicks said on Wednesday. "I never felt like I was going the wrong direction. I just know that things in New Orleans had become hectic, I had been moved to a 4-3 end, and I had played 3-4 end previously, but there's not too many guys 340 pounds out there that play a 4-3 end. And you know that was a part of the turmoil that was going on in New Orleans at the time.
"Being able to get to New England and play something that my body type allows me to do, I think it showed on tape at the end of the day that I could still be effective and I hope that's what [Bears general manager] Ryan Pace still saw from me when he brought me here to play this 3-4 end."
Hicks played under then-Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan- Ryan has since joined up with his evil twin in Buffalo- where Ryan claimed he had his control of the defense revoked by the higher ups. Hicks, for what it's worth, agrees that "it was evident" that Ryan was no longer allowed to run his own defense.
If what Ryan claims is true- that the Saints told him to operate a defense more similar to the Seahawks- then that shows a gross misuse of personnel in New Orleans. Caserio, Bill Belichick, and everyone else in New England will always be happy to free up talented players from bad situations.
And so in traditional Patriots fashion, they noticed that a formerly productive player like Hicks was no longer in a role suited for his capabilities and decided to "buy low" to bring him into the fold. This happened the prior season with Titans edge defender Akeem Ayers, and will likely happen again in 2016.
The Patriots used Hicks on the interior where he was better able to dominate guards and control the line of scrimmage, instead of bending the edge in New Orleans. He is likely to play a similar role for the Bears.