The LA Chargers have several roster holes that need to be addressed as well as the cap space to fill each of those holes. There is a wide array of potential free agents that the Bolts may try to pursue and one name that has been a popular one for some time is Akiem Hicks.
Hicks was first mentioned among Charger fans as a potential trade target for the team during the NFL trade deadline. The Bolts really struggled to stop the run all season and Hicks seemingly could have added a boost to the defense's efforts for a small price. However, whether it was because the Chargers were not interested or the Bears did not want to trade him, no deal was made.
Now Hicks seems like the perfect free-agent target for the Bolts. He adds to a position of need and has connections with Brandon Staley, who coached on the Chicago Bears while Hicks was on the team. And while I personally have petitioned for Hicks in the past, something has become apparently clear.
The LA Chargers should not target Akiem Hicks in free agency.
Could Hicks be a plan B or C for the Chargers if all else fails? Sure. But there will likely be teams that want Hicks as their plan A so the Bolts may not even get that luxury. If the team wants Hicks it probably has to go after him and quite frankly, the Bolts probably should not do that.
Hicks is 32 years old and will turn 33 in November. For comparison's sake, Hicks is almost exactly one year younger than Linval Joseph. So Hicks' age in the 2022 season will be the same as Joseph's was in 2021. We all saw how Joseph declined as the year went along.
Even though he is on the wrong side of 30, Hicks is still going to get a somewhat pricey multi-year deal. He is likely going to get something similar to what Joseph got from the Chargers in 2020. In fact, Pro Football Focus projects Hicks to get the exact same two-year, $17 million contract.
Replacing Joseph with another veteran defensive tackle who is aging might not be the best roster decision, especially considering Hicks has not returned to the Pro Bowl level that he showcased in 2018 with the Bears.
Instead, the Chargers would be much better off spending that money on a younger free agent, even if they have to spend a bit more. Sebastian Joseph-Day is the run-stuffing defensive tackle that the Bolts should be prioritizing and he is projected to get a three-year, $24 million deal.
If the salary is nearly the same and the Bolts can sign a younger player for longer then it should be a no-brainer. If the Bolts were to pursue Hicks over Joseph-Day, who also has ties to Brandon Staley, it would be extremely foolish.
As long as the Chargers sign Joseph-Day, re-sign Justin Jones and then draft a defensive tackle in the first two days of the 2022 NFL Draft then they should be just fine at the position.