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Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks

Andrew Buller-Russ

Even a full month after the 2022 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t done adding top talent to their existing roster. General manager Jason Licht’s newest addition is Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who was an unrestricted free agent.

According to Adam Schefter, the contract is a one-year deal that could be worth as much as $10 million with incentives, moving Hicks to his fourth team in what will be his 11th season.

The signing comes as a mild surprise, as the Bucs had yet to be linked to Hicks, but how much can the 32-year-old defensive lineman help the team in 2022?

How Akiem Hicks helps the Buccaneers

By moving on from both Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh this offseason, who are both still free agents, the Buccaneers have a lot of available playing time along the defensive line. Hicks appears in line to replace Suh, along with 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall, who has already drawn praise in OTAs.

Hicks is most known for his run-stuffing ability, where he served as an anchor along the Chicago Bears’ front seven for the past six seasons. Yet, despite what his 6-foot-5, 332-pound frame would indicate, Hicks also makes his presence felt as a pass rusher, using his strength to overwhelm smaller offensive linemen in the trenches.

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In fact, his pass-rushing ability might be his best trait at this stage in his career. Hicks has tallied 3.5 sacks each of the past two seasons and peaked with 8.5 sacks in 2017.

Even if Hicks likely won’t push for the team lead in sacks, he can take some attention away from Vita Vea, help out Logan Hall, and provide stellar play in the trenches in 2022. Landing a player of Hicks’ caliber this late in free agency has to be considered a win for Todd Bowles and Co.

Related: 2022 NFL defense rankings: Outlooks for top 20 defenses entering summer