A lot of the reports right now are quite sympathetic to Devin Hester.
It appears that he’s been unceremoniously dropped by the Chicago Bears, a team he loved. But lets be honest here, is memory clouding our judgment on what Hester actually brings for the money he’s demanding?
We all know Hester’s quality as a punt returner and a special teams player. His record for touchdowns equals Prime Time Deion Sanders. He scored an amazing 92-yard Kick off return in the Super Bowl that the Bears lost in 2006.
His strengths are apparent and even having an honorary made up verb being named after him shows his quality. So it might surprise you to know that this move is the best thing that the Bears could have done.
This is a changing Chicago with a new coach and new priorities. Lovie Smith paid out big bucks to keep Hester because he effectively held them ransom. His game expanded to also being a Wide Receiver, purely to get some more out of his talent for the money they were paying.
It didn’t work.
It may shock you to learn that Hester has scored seven return touchdowns since 2008. That’s right, seven over six seasons. Four of those seasons, he didn’t score one.
He was eventually moved back to being a special teams specialist but lets be honest, if you’re going to demand big bucks then you need to deliver. Hester did not deliver; in fact you could argue he was a big disappointment.
You have to think that Lovie Smith’s faith in him and the rather large guaranteed contract he had meant that Hester has been lucky not to be cut last year.
The problem with Hester, and it might seem to be a problem with many players with promise from the draft, is that they had an explosive rookie year. Hester had an explosive two years in a tricky position that played to his strengths and he played it spectacularly. Thirteen return TD’s in those two years alone gave him an incredible hand in contract bargaining.
But look at how QB’s dip after their promise begins to wane after a few years. It is not uncommon for the beginners luck, if you will, to run dry. Which for Hester, it did.
Despite have a turn around in form for a few years, he’s hardly delivered what his rookie seasons promised the Bears.
Another team will pick up Hester, that much is certain. But it won’t be for the money he’ll want or for the time he’ll want.
If he’s lucky he’ll get a good two-year contract with a one-year large guaranteed salary. But what you can say is that he will have a hell of a highlight reel. And if he gets even one more TD, he’ll have a record to boot.
I can’t think of many players who have that kind of accolade, that kind of money and their health enough at the end of their roads.
It’s not the end of the road for Hester just yet, but he’s certainly reaching an end game and he’s been lucky that the Bears haven’t done it before now.
What will be interesting to see is how the Bears utilize the available money they now have and how they build their 2014 team. Their main problem isn't the special team returns but getting a team injury free and consistently performing well enough to make the players.
Sacrificing Hester is the first step to that goal, the rest we'll see on draft day.