Why Byron Pringle looks like another Akiem Hicks-type signing
When the Chicago Bears signed Akiem Hicks in 2016, they got him for a whopping $10 million over two years. Most analysts thought he was a decent signing at the time. Hicks had played well for the New England Patriots the previous year and might be able to help their defensive line retool. Then he racked up seven sacks and 17 QB hits in his first season, playing at the Pro Bowl level. Suddenly, that contract the Bears got him for felt like theft. There is a chance that Byron Pringle will follow a similar path.
One reason to think this comes from their paths to getting to this moment. Hicks had to work his way into the starting lineup with the New Orleans Saints before being traded to New England. He only played 399 snaps in 2015 but was still productive. Then his workload grew to 930 shots the following year, and he took off. Pringle can be seen in the same way. He played 586 snaps at wide receiver last year. Nowhere near the 926 Travis Kelce or the 867 Tyreek Hill played.
This will change in Chicago.
It’s clear from the way general manager Ryan Poles spoke a few months ago that the Bears plan to highlight Pringle on offense. He is already developing a strong connection with Justin Fields in practice. He passed for 568 yards and five touchdowns on 586 snaps last season. Imagine what he could have accomplished with 250-300 more shots. People could speak of him with much more optimism than they have so far.
He may not end up being the Pro Bowl-caliber player Hicks has become, but there’s every reason to think Pringle can play that No. 2 role behind Darnell Mooney in the Bears’ passing game. It’s a great slot option, to say the least, with the ability to play outdoors too, thanks to its sneaky speed.
Byron Pringle also has a lot of motivation.
Many people see him as nothing more than a solid secondary option made effective by a superstar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Outside of the Kansas City Chiefs umbrella, he’s likely to flounder. Then there is the matter of money. Remember, Pringle only signed a one-year contract worth $4.125 million this offseason with Chicago. At 28, this is probably the last and best chance he will have to earn a major salary.
He is therefore very motivated to be much more than he was for the Chiefs. It’s his first real chance to be a primary contributor in an offense during his NFL career. If he plays like he did in 2021 with more snaps to go, it’s possible he’ll finish with the best numbers of his career across the board. Enough to place him in the conversation among the top No. 2 receivers in the league.
It will look like a robbery at that time.
Another sign that the Poles knew what he was doing. Like Ryan Pace in 2016, he knew exactly what kind of player he was getting. Far more than any other GM in the league. Pace helped draft Hicks in 2012 for the Saints, don’t forget that. The Poles helped sign Pringle as an undrafted free agent in Kansas City. He had more information about the receiver than anyone else. This is why having high expectations is not unusual.
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