Akiem Hicks Provides Patriots With High-Upside Defensive Line Depth


September 30, 2015

Bill Belichick is a wheeling and dealing trading machine this year.

The New England Patriots acquired their seventh player via trade since training camp broke in late July when they reportedly sent tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to the New Orleans Saints for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks on Wednesday.

Hicks joins a laundry list of players brought in by the Patriots though trades in 2015, including linebacker Jon Bostic, tight ends Michael Williams and Asante Cleveland, wide receivers Keshawn Martin and Jalen Saunders, and guard Ryan Groy. Bostic, Williams and Martin remain on the Patriots, while Cleveland is on the practice squad.

On paper, swapping Hoomanawanui for Hicks looks like a great deal for the Patriots.

Hoomanawanui had moved down to fourth on the Patriots’ depth chart, behind Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler and Williams. Hoomanawanui was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s 51-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he was held catchless in the Patriots’ first two games. He provided the Patriots with dependable depth at tight end for four seasons, but he never shined as a receiver or blocker.

Hicks is a former third-round draft pick with 33 starts under his belt in just over three seasons with the Saints. He has experience at defensive tackle and defensive end and should be inserted into the Patriots’ defensive line rotation to help stop the run. The Patriots allowed 5.7 yards per carry in their first two regular -season games before holding the Jaguars to 2.8 yards per carry in Week 3.

Hicks, who stands 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, looks like a prototypical five-technique defensive end, but he’s had more success as a three-technique defensive tackle in the NFL. He was a successful pass rusher for the Saints, recording 27 total pressures last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Hicks ranked first among Saints interior defensive linemen in snaps over the last two seasons. He was moved from defensive tackle to end this season and struggled in the new role.

The Patriots currently rotate Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Dominique Easley at defensive tackle. They also use defensive ends at the inside role on third down.

Hicks likely will back up Easley at three-technique defensive tackle on early downs. He has considerably more upside than Hoomanawanui, but he has struggled to put it all together early in his career, despite recording 4.5 sacks in 2013.

Acquiring Hicks comes with little risk for the Patriots with plenty of opportunities for reward, since they could receive a compensatory draft pick if he walks in free agency after the 2015 season.

Patriots fans continue to hope the team will bring in a cornerback via trade, but Hicks provides an exciting in-season addition to the front seven.

Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Oct 26, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks (76) celebrates after a sack against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated Packers 44-23. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
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