Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester (23) looks for running room during an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Whether it was the kick he returned for a touchdown to start off Super Bowl XLI, or the numerous other game-breaking returns he’s made in his career, Devin Hester has created plenty of great memories for Chicago Bears fans over the years, but it appears as though he will be making a splash somewhere else next season.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Bears have made no attempt to re-sign Hester so far during this offseason, and as such he will likely become a free agent when the negotiating window with other teams opens on March 9.
Hester, who has five kick-off return TD’s and 13 touchdowns on punt returns in his career, was in the final year of his contract in 2013 with the Bears, and he made the most of it. He led the league in average kick-off return distance, averaging 27.6 yards per attempt, and he also had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in the campaign, his first since the 2011 season with the Bears.
While Hester may not have had the gaudiest numbers over the past couple of years, he still could provide a unique spark to any team that is in a position to sign him. The Bears simply didn’t have the cap space to make an agreement work with Hester, and at 31 years old, his next contract as a returner could potentially be his last.
Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and new head coach Lovie Smith) could be enticing to Hester, but until the negotiating window with agents and other teams opens next week, there’s no surefire way to know what the market for Hester will look like.