The Chicago Bears have told Devin Hester they want “to go a different route.”
(Update: Brian Urlacher thinks Hester could land in Tampa Bay)
Devin Hester has captivated Chicago like few other professional athletes with his breathtaking returns since joining the Bears in 2006. He holds a host of league records, including the most combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns.
However, coming off a season in which he finished eighth in kick return average and third in punt return average while not playing any offense or defense and carrying a salary cap figure of approximately $3 million, it is time for the Bears and Devin Hester to amicably part ways. Now it’s happened.
Numerous outlets are now reporting that it’s a done deal- Devin Hester is not coming back to Chicago.
Prior to last season, we wrote that with the advent of the salary cap in 1994, the dual high-priced kick returner without any additional responsibilities has become as common as the corner video rental store.
Teams have been filling returner roles with either minimum salary players and/or those who provide ancillary offensive or defensive contributions. It appears the Bears gave Hester the 2013 season to prove that he was so exemplary that he merited being treated as the exception to an otherwise ironclad rule. While he had a fine season, he was not the Devin Hester of 2006-2007 or 2010-2011, yet he was paid like a high-priced wide receiver. Moreover, the players who eclipsed or were on par with his performance were either paid much less money and/or made significant non-returner contributions.
Fast forward one season.
Devin Hester is an unrestricted free agent.
As a player with eight years’ service time, the minimum the Bears had to pay Hester on a one-year deal to retain him was 855K.
The Bears have a limited amount of salary cap space and a plethora of roster spots to fill. At the conclusion of the season, we discussed how the Bears could free up an additional $20 million in cap space if they cut several veterans on their roster whose contracts, in our opinion, are not commensurate with their performance from last season.
To supplement the youth on the roster that currently comprises the depth at these positions and the additional depth they will acquire through the draft and undrafted free agency, the Bears are likely going to need to allocate resources toward free agency to maintain their excellent performance on offense and improve their putrid showing on defense.
There is simply no room for a high-priced kick returner who cannot contribute in other areas on the team.
It is unfortunate that Devin Hester will likely not play his entire career as a Bear. But do fans remember Johnny Unitas as a San Diego Charger? Joe Namath as a Los Angeles Ram? No. Unitas will always be identified as a Colt, Namath as a Jet. No matter what, Devin Hester will always be remembered as the fleet-footed returner confounding coverage units while wearing a Chicago Bears’ uniform.
The confluence of the salary cap and a high priced kick returner with a limited role caught up with #23. We wish him well except when fielding kicks against the Bears.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks