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The Devin Hester Era in Chicago should probably end now

Hester has complied quite the list of accomplishments during his time with the Bears. With nearly three million dollars in cap hit coming for 2013, it may just be time to thank him for his service and let him move along.


Oh Devin Hester. You are truly, truly ridiculous.

If you had told me back in 2006 that the 57th overall pick out of Miami would be in the NFL record books, I might have politely nodded at you and given you the smile I give to crazy people. But the numbers do speak for themself:

  • 3x Pro Bowl (2006,2007,2010)
  • 4x All-Pro (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011)
  • 13x NFC Player of the Week
  • NFC Champion
  • NFL All-Time leader in combined kick/punt return touchdowns (18)
  • Most regular season kick and punt return touchdowns, career (17)
  • Punt return touchdowns, career (12)
  • Punt return touchdowns, season (4-2007)
  • Kickoff return touchdowns, game (2 - @StL, 2006)
Amongst many others, which you can read on his Wikipedia page, if you so choose.

Hester was, as it is easily seen, one of, if not the, greatest returner in history. But now he's a shadow of himself in that regard, but why?

While it's hard to say for certain, it appears that trying to shoehorn him into the offense, with forced carries and a conversion from (mediocre) cornerback to wide receiver, really messed with his ability to stay focused on the thing that he was truly special at. Whether it was because it was overwhelming mentally, or because his legs were extra tired from running route, he has really lacked the explosiveness lately.

Hester, however, has been able to clear a little bit of it up for us. When the termination of Lovie Smith was announced, Devin announced that he'd probably just go ahead and retire.

MORE: Devin Hester considering retiring in wake of Lovie Smith's departure

Inherently, I think many would agree this seems a bit childish as a response, but maybe he's just done with the game. He says he's stressed, and it's been on his mind, and that's all perfectly fine. No reasonable person could fault someone who just isn't sure they want to do it anymore.

But then, an interesting thing happened. Just before the Super Bowl, Hester told the Tribune's Vaughan McClure that he could probably that he could see himself getting another two or three years in, but that he might need a fresh start. For those of you playing at home, that's Hester saying he probably needs to be traded, without saying the words "I need to be traded."

MORE: Devin Hester Hints at Possibility of Requesting a Trade

Well, ok. That's a little more different, as it hints that he has some animosity to a franchise that tried to give him the ability to be a playmaker more often, and was rewarded with dropped passes and bad routes.

But truly, this story gets more awkwardly ridiculous. In a follow-up article, McClure discusses the disconnect between Hester and quarterback Jay Cutler.

Here are some select quotes:

...but Hester doesn't see himself fitting in. Why? The answer is simple: Hester and quarterback Jay Cutler aren't on the same page.Former Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake explained it best last week.

When Hester was asked if he needed to sit down with Cutler to iron out their differences, there was silence for a couple of minutes. "If I was to be here, then yes," Hester said. "I think so."

Former WR coach Darryl Drake says:

"They need to sit down and get to know each other better, which I don't know if that will ever happen," Drake said. "I think it's both of them just being able to understand each other.

Well hmm. Let's take a look at this.

A situational (at-best) wide receiver who apparently needs to be coddled because the big bad quarterback isn't on the same page with him. Nevermind the fact that when Jay Cutler tries to throw it to Hester, good things tend not happen. That's not to say Cutler is fault-free--he needs to temper his expectations sometimes, to be certain. He makes bad decisions sometimes.

I'll buy the chemistry issue. Chemistry is ideal between people. I'm not sure how much stock I can really put in Drake's words. Why? Well, nothing in the article suggests the culpability of a wide receivers coach who NEVER DEVELOPED HESTER AS A WIDE RECEIVER DURING HIS ENTIRE TENURE.

Now, I'm not saying that he had to turn Devin Hester into Jerry Rice, but I'd like to think he could've at least turned him into a speed threat with shiftiness. Is it all Drake's fault? no, but when they were looking at making Hester a wide receiver, some input that said "This guy is never going to be able to do what you want." would have sufficed.

During this time, we're looking a return man whose performance has left something to be desired. Now, part of that can be attributed to the fact that his presence did influence some opponents into kicking away from him. But also, you're looking at someone who seemed to regress in his decision making skills over the past few years. Where he used to see-hole-hit-hole-score td, he started to dance. Lateral movement became a signature of the Devin Hester return, and where we used to think every play was a potential touchdown, it started to be just as easy to assume that at some point, you'd see Devin Hester run backwards three or four yards.

So where does that leave the Bears at this point? Hester is scheduled to be a $2.94 million cap hit this season.

  • Keep Hester, try to maximize that cost by utilizing him as a return man and wide receiver
  • Keep Hester, pay nearly $3 million dollars for a full-time returner who hasn't taken one back since November 2011, ranked 22nd in punt return average in 2012, and had a long kickoff return in 2012 of 40 yards
  • Trade Devin Hester for a pick in the 2013 draft
  • Cut Devin Hester, use $3 million to get fresh legs, heads, and hearts on the team.

As a big fan of Hester, it's painful to say the option should be one of the last two. There's nothing like the Hester of '06 and '07, but there's very little likelihood of ever seeing that guy on the field for the Bears.

What can you get in a trade? A late round pick, at this point. There are teams that are still not fond of kicking to Hester, and you might find a team willing to overreach a bit on what they think can be a reclamation pick. I'm thinking a 4th rounder tops, but in the real world you're likely looking at more like a fifth or sixth.

So try to trade him. If you can't, cutting him has to be an option on the table. His cap hit this year would more than help cover the salaries of all of your late round picks, at which point you can use one to gamble on a new return man, if you're so inclined.

The Bears are in a new era. While fan sentimentality is great, letting Hester ride out this part of the contract with the hopes that you might catch a glimpse of the former player are slim. The best business decision is probably the best football decision. That's not always the case.