The Chicago Bears are embarking on a new era in their storied history following the firing of Lovie Smith and the subsequent hiring of Marc Trestman to be the team's new head coach. Trestman is sure to bring a new philosophy and culture to a team that has started very strong the last two seasons, only to falter late and miss the playoffs.
Over the years, Devin Hester has become one of the Bears' most popular players for his incredible ability to return kicks. But beyond the occasional big play in the return game, Hester hasn't been a very big part of what the Bears have done.
Originally drafted as a cornerback, Hester was converted to wide receiver so the Bears could utilize his athletic ability and get the ball in his hands more often. But since the 2009 season, in which he caught 57 passes, his numbers have steadily decreased each year. After having his role scaled back this past season, Hester came up with just 23 receptions and has a total of 49 the last two years combined.
The place where Hester made his name was on special teams, as perhaps the greatest kick-return specialist the league has ever seen. However, he's not even doing that well anymore, partially because of the league moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line. In 2012, Hester got only 24 opportunities to return kickoffs. While he did average over 25 yards per return, he didn't have one go for more than 40 yards all season.
In the punt return game, Hester was non-existent in 2012. He averaged a mere 8.2 yards per return, down from 16.2 yards the year before. Hester did not have a return for a touchdown of any kind.
Following Smith's departure, Hester teased that he may be considering retirement (Yahoo Sports). The team has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett as their top three receivers and some depth at the position with Eric Weems. Hester is simply not needed at this point, especially if he's made ineffective as a return man by teams pounding the kickoff out of the back of the end zone.
Whether Hester opts for retirement or not remains to be seen. If he chooses to come back for an eighth NFL season, the Bears would be best-served to see if they can obtain something, anything for him in a trade.