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Devin Hester's Contract Situation

Instead of me struggling to explain the salary cap and contract issues, I am just going to post the post and let you take it for what it is.

With Deion Sanders of NFL Network trying to get Bears kick returner/receiver/only decent skill-position player Devin Hester a new contract with two years remaining on his rookie deal, Hester might think that, absent an extension, he'll finish out his current contract in 2009 and become an unrestricted free agent in 2010, which is on track to be the year without a salary cap.

Even if the Bears were to use the franchise tag on Hester in 2010, he'd be in line for a significant one-year salary, which by 2010 could be more than $10 million for a wideout.

But here's the problem, and it's something that few players realize.  Though the prospect of a season without a salary cap causes many a player's eyes to be replaced by dollar signs, the reality is that, in the uncapped year, the threshold for achieving unrestricted free agency moves from four years to six.

So Hester won't be an unrestricted free agent.  He'll be a restricted free agent, and he'll be in line for a salary in the neighborhood of $3 million for the 2010 season, assuming that the Bears use the high tender.

Of course, the Bears might still opt to use the franchise tag, since there very well could be a team out there that's willing to give up a first-round pick and a third-round pick for one of the most dynamic players in the league.  Then again, dynamic players can lose their mojo pretty quickly (see Hall, Dante); coughing up big money and two high draft picks might ultimately be viewed as a risk not worth taking.

Regardless, the point here is that Hester essentially is caught in a five-year deal with the Bears, given realities of the uncapped year about which many players are oblivious.  And if the CBA is extended and the current free agency/salary cap system is still used as of 2011, the Bears will then be able to slap the franchise tag on him, meaning that they can force him to play for six years before he gets a realistic shot at the open market.

The Bears have no plans on letting Hester hit the open market.  They have publicly stated they think he is good enough to be their #1 receiver in the coming years.  The Bears just need to see how much improved Hester is before they can decide how to approach him with a new contract.  If Hester can put up good/above average numbers, then the Bears can throw some money his way expecting he will continue to improve with time.