On the eve of their season opener against the Falcons, the Bears on Saturday signed defensive end Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension through 2021.
Hicks, 27, originally joined the Bears last season as a free agent and became a core member of the defense. Starting all 16 games, the sixth-year pro set career highs and led the team's linemen with 71 tackles, seven sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Akiem Hicks agrees to new contract with the Bears.
Hicks was selected by the Saints in the third round of the 2012 draft when Bears general manager Ryan Pace worked in New Orleans' personnel department. The 6-5, 332-pounder was traded to the Patriots early in the 2015 season after the Saints had switched to a 4-3 defense.
A natural 3-4 end, Hicks appeared in 13 games and two playoff contests for New England in 2015, recording 21 tackles and three sacks. The Patriots tried to re-sign him, but he opted to ink a two-year contract with the Bears.
Hicks immediately brought emotion and a swagger to the Bears defense, something he first showed last summer in training camp—most notably when he screamed after flattening tight end Martellus Bennett during a joint practice with the Patriots in New England.
Hicks' best game last season came Dec. 4 when he recorded a career-high 10 tackles, matched a personal high with two sacks and forced a fumble in a 26-6 drubbing of the 49ers—a performance that earned him NFC defensive player of the week honors.