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Breaking Down the Akiem Hicks Trade, Belichick Continues Roster Building

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 years ago at 6:04 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Breaking Down the Akiem Hicks Trade, Belichick Continues Roster BuildingDavid Butler II - USA TODAY Sports

 

The Patriots made a flurry of roster moves on Wednesday just after the final bye week practice, releasing one player from the active roster LB Dekoda Watson, and three more from the practice squad WR Kenbrell Thompkins, DL Joe Vellano and OL Chris Barker.

But the big news of the day was the trade the team made with the New Orleans Saints, trading TE Michael Hoomanawanui and receiving DL Akiem Hicks in return.

Hoomanawanui had fallen down the depth chart with the arrival of free agent Scott Chandler and the trade that brought TE/T Michael Williams from the Lions. Now the fourth tight end, Hoomanawanui was a healthy inactive for the Jacksonville game.

He has good blocking skills and decent hands in the passing game but never was a big factor there. His best year was in 2013 with Gronkowski out, he caught 13 passes. He did bring value in his versatility however, he could line up as a traditional tight end, H-back or as a fullback. New Orleans, with a need of in-line blocking tight end depth made the deal with the Patriots for the 6’4, 260 pound six-year veteran. Hooman was always a valuable work-pail type of player that teams love to have on the bottom of the roster.

But this trade was really about Hicks, the talented but inconsistent defensive lineman. Taken by the Saints in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Hicks’ best season was in 2013 when he tallied 4.5 sacks and 76 tackles.

He has some positional versatility and will probably be used as an inside three-technique defensive tackle by the Patriots. That is where his best work was done with the Saints, although he played some five-technique there as well. It was the move to defensive end this season where he struggled.

Hicks dropped 20 pounds this past offseason in an attempt to add a bit more of quickness to his game and other than a minor ankle injury, had a solid training camp for the Saints. But the coaching staff there had lost faith in him and his playing time dwindled. It was a quick fall from grace for the 25-year old, where just a year ago he was considered one of the more important players on the defensive line.

But after playing in nearly 70 percent of the snaps in the opener, the coaches were replacing him with rookies Tyeler Davison and Bobby Richardson more and more as his snap counts plummeted to 44 and 43 percent.

Perhaps a change of scenery and a chance to start fresh will ignite the 6’5, 324 pound Hicks. Rather than the traditional two-gap run stuffer that the Patriots have favored in the past, Hicks, when at the top of his game is more of a penetrator, a guy who can use his quickness off the line to disrupt plays in the backfield and push the pocket.

He has plenty of upside, now the coaches have to bring it out of him, Bill Belichick has always had a great touch in using a player to fullest potential by playing to his strengths. And that would be as an inside penetrator who is very solid in the running game.

He’ll join Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown, Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch at the rotation inside on the defensive line. This move will further strengthen the front seven and provide another good run stuffing presence along with a player that can be a factor in the pass rush as well.

This trade was a good one for New England, Hoomanawanui was obviously not going to be a big factor in the Patriots offense moving forward and so the cost of taking a flyer on the former 3rd round pick Hicks was minimal. Plus…if Hicks does leave after the season, the Patriots would be eligible for a compensatory pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

These moves show that, despite being on a bye week, the work never stops and especially in the area of team building, the Patriots under Belichick have always tinkered with the roster.

This will not be the last move the team makes before the November 3 trade deadline. I would expect the Patriots to be active in search of more players that they feel can put them in the best position to win this season.

The amount of turnover of the roster is amazing; the Patriots Super Bowl winning roster of just a few months ago has changed dramatically. As our salary cap guru Miguel (@Patscap) pointed out on Twitter, just 30 players from the 53 who beat the Seahawks are currently on the roster.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Patriots Training Camp Akiem Hicks Alan Branch Bill Belichick Dominique Easley Gillette Stadium Malcom Brown Michael Hoomanawanui New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Patriots Sealver Siliga trade


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