The Cleveland Browns don’t need to add another starter to the defensive front, but one more quality rotation piece would complete one of the most drastic unit turnarounds in the NFL headed into the 2023 season.
Akiem Hicks is one of the best interior D-linemen remaining on the free-agent market, and he could be a good fit with the Browns. … [Hicks] can still be a valuable piece up the middle at this point in his career, and he brings a ton of knowledge to any locker room.
While it’s no longer a necessity for Cleveland to sign a DT, it could benefit the team to do so. There may be no better one to target at this point than Hicks.
Akiem Hicks Still Starting-Caliber Player Entering 12th NFL Season
Hicks will turn 34 years old this season and will kick off his 12th professional campaign once he finds a landing spot.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound defensive tackle is still a starting-caliber player in the NFL. Hicks started all 11 of the games he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022.
That said, Hicks may not start for the Browns even if he does join the roster, at least not right away. Cleveland signed Dalvin Tomlinson to a massive four-year deal in the offseason before adding Shelby Harris on a one-year contract worth $3.5 million.
Hicks played in Tampa last year on an $8 million deal and may be looking for something in a similar range. That could be hard for him to find, though, absent an opening on a good defense via injury.
Browns Defensive Line Can Use Another Rotation Player
The Browns have north of $26 million in salary cap space remaining and could easily bring Hicks into the locker room. However, if that happens, it is almost certain to be at a significant discount considering the DT’s injury issues and production decline in 2022.
Hicks missed six games and produced only one sack last season. He also missed eight contests during his final year in Chicago in 2021 and sat out 11 games two years before that due to injury issues.
Still, when Hicks has been on the field he has proven productive. He remained solid against the run last year, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) analytics. The Browns defensive front was abysmal against the run in 2022 and Hicks can help significantly in that regard.
Harris was excellent against the run for the Seattle Seahawks in 2022, while Tomlinson was an adequate run-stopper with the Minnesota Vikings. The issues exist behind them on the depth chart, where Jordan Elliott and unproven rookie Siaki Ika reside.