Does Devin Hester, sans the wide receiver’s gloves, suddenly offer too little potential production to survive in today’s NFL given his hefty salary cap figure? With the advent of the hard salary cap in 1994, teams have been tasked with finding as many versatile players as possible.
While the salary cap era spawned a significant increase in dual punt and kick returners–their consolidation of duties is cost efficient—the high-priced dual returner with no offensive, defensive or other special teams responsibilities is an endangered species. The lone survivor might be found on the Chicago Bears’ roster on opening day against the Cincinnati Bengals in the name of Devin Hester.
Or maybe not.
For Hester to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs, he will likely need to show a burst during training camp and exhibition games to justify remaining the exception to a trend that wiped out his expensive one-dimensional brethren years ago.
Clearly Devin Hester is one of the best kick returners in franchise history and arguably among the top five in league history. Hester, whose career started in 2006, holds the record for the most kicks returned for touchdowns with seventeen and the most punts returned for touchdowns with twelve, and he is tied for eighth in career kickoffs returned for touchdowns with five. His career punt return average of 12.1 ranks 12th in league history, and in his seven seasons, he has led the league in punt return average twice (2010 and 2011) and has finished second on two other occasions (2006 and 2007). He is also a player whose elegance and class off the field are beyond reproach.