TAMPA BAY – The Buccaneers’ decision to sign Akiem Hicks was a big one for many reasons.

If Hicks stays healthy, he brings a skill set that is very capable of stopping the run and rushing the passer. He’s also a tremendous leader, evidenced by the fact the Bears selected him as a team captain during his time in Chicago.

Hicks is also a great fit on the Buccaneers defensive line and he’s the perfect complementary piece to put next to Vita Vea. Hicks, Vea, and Will Gholston/Logan Hall (don’t forget Nacho!) are going to be a pretty solid rotation in 2022.

But what after 2022? Both Hicks and Gholston will be without a contract in 2023. Hall and Vea are the only “starters” signed past 2022.

Unfortunately for Gholston, a strong season by Hicks could mean the end of his time in Tampa Bay.

Hall is essentially a replica of Gholston, but with more pass rush ability. It’s pretty much why the Buccaneers drafted him. He’s long, tall, big, and can move in tight space. He’ll eventually take over for Gholston, except the hope is Hall stays in on passing downs.

Hall and Gholston are much, much different players than Hicks and Vea. Vea is the ultimate space eater – the guy everyone revolves around, like the sun. And then Hicks will play the Ndamukong Suh role, essentially.

When the Buccaneers go into their nickel package, they typically keep Vea and one other down lineman on the field with their other two standup rushers. Or, they go LEO or with four down linemen, but even then, Gholston wouldn’t be in those packages.

Just put it this way: Per Sports Info Solutions, Gholston logged just seven pass rushes and nine run defense snaps on 3rd and 6+ in 2021.

With Hall in the picture, Gholston simply doesn’t fit in the picture as a backup with the Buccaneers. And he’ll turn 30 on July 31. He’s a good player who still has a few good years left. And let’s not forget there were several teams interested in him during free agency. There’s a good chance he leaves for elsewhere if the Bucs decide to bring Hicks back next year.

Sure, this is something to concentrate on next year, when it matters most. However, the best teams and GMs always have one eye toward the future. Meaning, it’s completely logical to think Jason Licht has already ran through this scenario several times, in his mind.

It’ll be interesting to see how things eventually play out for the second-longest tenured player on the team.

Featured image via Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports