With the Chicago Bears' season winding down in disappointing fashion, most have sights set on 2022. While Justin Fields' growth and a potential new head coach are the primary points of focus, the team appears to be losing one of its leaders after this season. Following Monday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings, defensive tackle and all-around team leader Akiem Hicks opened up about his future, and it's unfortunate.
Hicks told Mark Grote of 670 Sports that he wants to play good football and say goodbye to Chicago in the right way. In a short summary, if Hicks is indeed leaving the Bears, it is a major loss for the team on defense and in their locker room.
This won't be a column filled with stats to defend the argument to keep Hicks. It's pretty simple; watch any game with Hicks in the lineup and compare it to a game without. The unfortunate reality is that over the past three seasons, Hicks has experienced a plethora of injuries. While the defense has been significantly more effective with Hicks on the field, at 32 years old, the oft-injured leader may not fit with a new regime that will have plenty of decisions to make.
Hicks' stats don't jump off the page, but his on-field effort always seems to open opportunities for star players such as Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Roquan Smith. As any football fan knows, sometimes players of Hicks' ilk are some of the most coveted and important players a team can have.
The End Of An Era
One of the biggest issues for the Bears' prospects of bringing Hicks back is getting team-friendly value, while not really knowing his market value among other teams. The intrigue of Akiem Hicks is that he can be a force on the field who creates havoc and opens up plays for other defenders while being one of the best team leaders in the league. Hicks doesn't just get respect from his teammates, he demands it and has earned it with his dedication and effort on the field.
While other players have made more highlight plays, have greater stats, and get more attention, any Bears fan knows the importance of an Akiem Hicks-type player. Coaching and roster changes are imminent, but losing a proven veteran who is respected throughout the locker room and beloved in the city would be a major disappointment.
Earlier this season, Hicks went radio silent in hopes of getting a new deal and made it known he'd like to retire a Bear. But as the disappointing season unraveled, the possibility of him returning in 2022 became bleak. Over the past two games, Hicks has made it clear that the marriage between the two sides is likely coming to an end.
If this season is indeed the final one for Akiem Hicks in a Bears uniform, he will leave behind a leader legacy that won't be easy to follow. The Bears took a chance on him in free agency and it was great while it lasted. Hicks has set the standard, and anyone who plays defense after him must embody the lasting impression he leaves behind.