Chicago Bears: 5 players facing crucial contract years in 2021

Chicago Bears (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Chicago Bears, Akiem Hicks
Chicago Bears (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks is facing a crucial 2021 season

After three straight years of at least 7.0 sacks with the Bears, Akiem Hicks has totaled just 4.5 in his last two seasons. Health has become a concern. Hicks’ body has not held up like it has in previous years. The 31-year-old is now in the final year of his contract with the Bears, and it looks like he’ll be gone come 2022.

Even if Hicks starts every game this year and plays well, he’ll be 32 next offseason and the Bears won’t want to pay him top-tier money at that age.

This season is more Hicks playing for a future deal elsewhere, and one last hurrah with the Bears, if you will. The Bears need Hicks this season. His body needs to hold up. This defense depends on him — especially in the run game. Over his first three years with the Bears, Hicks ranked second in the NFL in run stops, per PFF. 

This is someone the Bears will need to look at replacing in a year, but as for right now, 2021 is as big as they come for Hicks. His health and play have a lot hinging on it — not just for the Bears’ sake, but for his future’s sake.