The Chicago Bears are less than a day away from opening their 2017 season at Soldier Field against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, and a big move for the future was made right before kick-off. It was announced on Saturday afternoon by Adam Schefter that DE Akiem Hicks signed a four-year extension worth $48 million.

Hicks (27) is entering his second season as a member of the Chicago Bears after GM Ryan Pace signed him as a free agent before the 2016 season to a two-year deal. He is in his prime years as an NFL player and it is hoped that he will be an anchor for the Bears' front seven for the remainder of the decade.

Hicks' value to the team

Hicks has had a real solid career at defensive end so far with the Bears, Patriots and Saints. In six seasons in the NFL he has 16.5 sacks, 114 tackles, 88 assists, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 77 games. Last year with the Bears, in a season where he was considered a pro bowl snub, Hicks started all 16 games, recording 7.0 sacks, 36 tackles (both career highs) and 18 assists. He was one of the few essential players on the team that played all 16 games last season as 19 roster members spent time on the injured reserve list.

The aspect of the Bears that has greatly impressed is the front seven on the defensive end. In the preseason their unit kept pressure on the quarterback constantly and Hicks is a center piece of that unit. Because the secondary is spotty with some major questions, the front seven being good helps them a lot if there is pressure on the offense.

Breaking down the deal

It was just a matter of time before the Bears offered an extension to Hicks before hitting free agency. As mentioned, Hicks gets a four-year, $48 million extension. It is reported that the deal includes $30 million of it guaranteed. He was on a two-year, $10 million deal when he signed with the Bears before 2016.

He will now be making $12 million per season for the next four years and is now the 7th highest paid defensive end in the NFL.

Looking forward

Now that Hicks is locked up, it is time to start the 2017 season. The Bears have one of the toughest schedules this year and begin the season playing the Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers, Packers, and Vikings in their first five games. Mike Glennon will be the starting quarterback this Sunday against Atlanta with Hicks starting at defensive end on a line that has to deal with Matt Ryan, Devonte Freeman, and the potent Falcons offense.