By Chris Emma–

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — After a breakout season in 2016 in which he rewarded the Bears’ faith, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks could get rewarded right back.

Entering the second season of a two-year deal in Chicago, Hicks could be a candidate for a contract extension. The first step was finding representation after parting ways with his previous agent, Frank Murtha. He did so two weeks ago with the hiring of super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace wouldn’t say whether negotiations with Hicks and his new representation have begun when asked Wednesday at Olivet Nazarene. But Hicks had plenty to say about the possibility.

“I love the city, man,” Hicks said. “I was coming to Chicago long before I played for the Bears. My mother’s from here. I know when I was a free agent and my mom found out that — I’m a momma’s boy, obviously — when my mom found out Chicago was a team that was interested in me coming here, she was ecstatic. She was excited. She wanted me to be here. She wanted to be able to come here and see her son play in her home city.

“In living here, I’ve grown to love it. Go Cubs. I just enjoy my time here and I’m completely open to ending my career here. … I know that I’m interested in playing here for a long time.”

Hicks started all 16 games last season and immediately became a staple for a defensive front that has improved during Pace’s tenure in Chicago. He recorded 54 tackles and seven sacks, both of which marked career highs. Hicks had previously played with the Saints while Pace worked in their front office and then 13 games with the Patriots in 2015.

In training camp last July, the Bears rewarded linebacker Willie Young with a two-year contract extension before what would have been the final year of his deal. Early last September, three-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long was given a four-year deal to move him past his rookie contract.

Hicks could be next to get the priority treatment from the Bears.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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