There is no question that Devin Hester was a huge part of the Chicago Bears' success with the Super Bowl run in 2006. But the man who once awestruck the entire league with kick returns has now fallen into mediocrity.
In his first two seasons, Hester was setting records for punt and kickoff returns as he seemed impossible to stop. But with a transition from return specialist to wide receiver that has never panned out to be anything better than David Terrell, we've seen a huge decline in numbers.
In 2006, Hester had three punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns. In 2007, he had six total returns. Since then, he only had one kickoff return for a touchdown. Part of that was due to the transition to wide receiver and limiting his returns.
To be fair, the NFL has changed a lot of the kickoff rules, especially when they moved the kickoff tee from the 30-yard line to the 35. There have been more touchbacks since then, creating fewer opportunities for players like Hester to shine.
But this season we saw that Hester didn't score at all in 40 punt return attempts and 24 kickoff return attempts. That can partly be due to how the Bears didn't have the best special teams players like they had in 2006 and 2007.
Also, consider that he's now 30 years old, so his best years are going to be behind him. He might still be able to make big returns, but not as many as his first two or three seasons with the Bears.
And with Chicago's need for offensive linemen and younger defensive stars becoming more apparent every season, it would be crazy not to trade Hester now before he becomes forgotten by the rest of the NFL. The question becomes what would the Bears be asking for in return.
One of the first Chicago must request is draft picks. The team doesn't have as many picks this year as a lot of other teams. As of late, we've seen the Seattle Seahawks build themselves through the draft and have now set themselves up as a contender for the long run.
With the aging defense and other needs, this is what Chicago has to do. Therefore, you have to ask for at least two or three draft picks this year for Hester.
Some of the top offensive linemen in the draft are predicted to go before the Bears get their first shot at the draft at No. 20. I'm sure Chicago fans would like to see the team have a pick higher to get Luke Joeckel, out of Texas A&M University, or Eric Fisher, out of Central Michigan University.
If there was a way to make a trade up without giving up No. 20, the Bears could select a top-tier offensive lineman out of the draft and have a first round pick to use on a good tight end in Zach Ertz, out of Stanford University, or an inside linebacker like Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
For that kind of trade to happen, Chicago would probably have to offer someone like Hester. While his numbers have gone down, he would still appeal to teams in need of potential playmakers and veteran leadership.
Will Hester become a great return man again? It would be tough, but he has to find that speed and elusiveness again to be relevant in the league once more. But at least the Bears can still gain some trade value in the draft and build their team for the future where many teams have found success.