Potential cap casualty that could help the Dallas Cowboys

Chicago Bears, Akiem Hicks (96) Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears, Akiem Hicks (96) Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys are going to have multiple options available to them in an attempt to fix their defense and should get help from cash-strapped teams. This year’s offseason is off to a hot start and the new league year hasn’t even begun.

Pro Bowl players like J.J. Watt and Kawaan Short are already on the market and there will be more than a handful of players released as teams attempt to maneuver to stay under the salary threshold. With the salary cap expected to hover around the $180 million mark or about $20 million below last year’s cap, teams are facing harsh decisions regarding some of their veteran players.

The Cowboys are going to be in a spot where they can upgrade their defense at a reasonable price since most teams are going to be stretched pretty thin. Fewer options for the players means more opportunities for this football team.

Speaking of opportunities, I spent the day researching other teams’ salary cap issues and there are a few situations that could spell opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys. I couldn’t find any hard sources that indicated this player could be on his way out but their salary situation tells a different story.

I recently talked about how Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller could find his way to Dallas if he were to be released but there is an interior lineman that could also be of interest. The player could also be a trade candidate but I doubt the Cowboys would be interested in his current salary.

The Dallas Cowboys are no stranger to having a defensive lineman from Canada. Neville Gallimore and Tyrone Crawford are both the latest examples but the best (so far) interior lineman our neighbors to the north have provided the league has to be defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

This six-foot-four, 350-pound interior lineman played in 15 games this past season after coming off from an injury-riddled season the year before but posted one of his worst seasons as a pro. His $12 million cap hit this upcoming season mixed with his age (31) make him a cut candidate to watch out for.

The Chicago Bears are roughly $6 million over the cap and still have to find a quarterback. With the team so heavily invested on the defensive side of the ball namely the defensive line, connecting the dots to a release are not out of the question. The Bears already pay massive salaries to edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn so cost-cutting is a must.

With so much invested in the defensive line, trimming salary on that position group makes sense. I’m sure the Bears would rather let Quinn go as his salary did not equal his production but his cap hit is just unrealistic.

Releasing Hicks creates a $1.5 million dead money but the team gains the balance of his base salary which is $10.5 million. Clearly, that is not enough to acquire a quarterback but that kind of salary cap relief without a ton of dead money are the hard decisions general managers face when assembling a roster. Hicks accounts for 6.4 percent of the Bears salary cap.

For those of you who think the Bears should restructure to keep him, Hicks is in the last year of his deal, making it a moot point. The Bears could try and extend Hicks but that all depends on their quarterback pursuit.

The Dallas Cowboys have a serious need at the defensive tackle position and their penchant for employing Canadian defensive lineman could bring Hicks to Dallas. Ok, that is silly to think but playing for America’s team to regain your place amongst the bigger names in the sport is not far-fetched.

Players like Robert Quinn and Xavier Sua-Filo got more money on the open market than they probably should have and I attribute that to the pedestal playing for the Cowboys places them on. Hicks could come to Big D on a one-year deal in hopes of having a bounce-back season in order for him to maximize his future earnings.

I watched some of his tape this past season and the first thing you notice about Hicks is that he has a funny three-point stance that would drive technique coaches crazy while younger kids should not try to copy.

I also see a guy who rarely gets moved out of his spot which Dallas sorely needs. The interesting part is he can still occasionally collapse the pocket as he did in the 2018 season. The Bears usually have him play the one-technique but I did see them try and get him in one on one situations by playing in the three-technique spot.

Hicks uses a version of the Reggie White “hump move” in which a player moves in a direction and when the offensive lineman mirrors him, Hicks uses the player’s own body weight to club him and try to get him off balance and have a free run at the quarterback.

It is very effective but he might rely on that move a little too much. His goal-line presence is amazing as he has the ability to stack and shed lineman without giving up ground.

The Dallas Cowboys struggle with zone-running teams like what the Los Angeles Rams like to use. That running scheme allows for some backside defenders to be left unblocked but Hicks seems to thrive in that position. His backside tackle against Alvin Kamara in the Bear’s wildcard loss is a thing of beauty and should be taught at all levels.

Hicks is also used effectively in a stunt and can get to the quarterback in a hurry. Hicks also loves to show emotion towards the individual he beats. That type of fiery interior play and trash talk is something the Cowboys also lack. I didn’t even mention the impact the rest of the defensive line would gain from his presence especially fellow countryman Neville Gallimore.

The one knock on Hicks is his love for late quarterback hits. If Hicks has you in his sights, the chances of him letting up are slim and he does take unnecessary shots after the quarterback has released the ball. Hicks plays like he still lives in the pre-quarterback protection era.

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Dallas is always linked to big-name players but if released, a lesser know Pro Bowl player like Hicks should be the free-agent target we are all hoping for.