With the 2012-2013 season nearing the halfway marker, the Chicago Bears are seemingly finding their groove. Mike Tice seems to be figuring out ways to implement the weapons in his arsenal into his offensive strategy effectively and efficiently.
So far this year, Bears fans have gotten what they have been asking for since Mike Martz took over the offense in 2010: more balance. Not only have running and passing been applied with great reward, but the balance in touches between running backs and receptions among receivers have been distributed well.
It seems as though Brandon Marshall has finally matured as a man while Forte and Briggs can play without the looming contract questions. Jay Cutler seems to be much happier this year because of the weapons that have been placed around him and with the protection he has been getting with the exception of the Thursday Night game versus the Packers.
If all seems as well in Bears country as I am making it sound, then, why, you ask, would I suggest that Devin Hester is now expendable on a Bears team that is now ready for Superbowl contention?
With a season that could end with the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, it is hard to imagine the Bears wanting to hold onto a package limited player. Hester has shown over the course of three years that he is incapable of being a reliable, every-down receiver. His route running, when correct, is wonderful, but when it is wrong it ruins drives and sometimes ends in disaster for the offense.
His ability has also been diminished because of the new rule moving the ball from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line, allowing teams to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone on a consistent basis. His presence is still felt on punts because of directional kicking, but it seems this year more teams are skying the ball in the air causing him to call for a fair catch.
Hester's contract is up at the end of the 2014 season and he is scheduled to make $1.85 million in the 2013-2014 season. Many will say that this isn't a lot of money for a player of Hester's stature, but I question those statements. What has he done for the Bears lately?
He has had 130 total receptions in the past 3 seasons combined and is on pace for 22 receptions this year with 3 TDs and 460 yds receiving. His production on offense has steadily declined each year since his best overall offensive season in 2009 (57 rec., 757 yds. and 3 TDs). He has had 1 KR touchdown since 2007 and 5 PR touchdowns since 2008. On average he only produces 3.8 touchdowns a year.
I am not one to diminish his importance of the Bears success in the past, but I do think as a team, the Bears are heading in a new direction which will exclude him.
With all of the above resulting in a exponential decline in his role on offense and special teams it is hard to imagine a GM as aggressive and intelligent as Phil Emery to stand back and not pull the trigger and send him packing to another team for draft pick(s).
With Peppers, Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman, Garza, and Idonije all coming to the end of their careers and the problems J'Marcus Webb has had over the extent of his career with the Bears at left tackle, it would seem that reallocating money toward those specific positions and getting a new young group of players in the locker room would be priority number one.
It was good to watch the historic run Hester let us all come along for, but the Bears would be better suited to cut ties with Hester and begin to look ahead instead of holding onto a fan favorite.