Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
The 49ers like their fifth wide receiver to have special teams prowess, either as a returner or gunner. When Trent Baalke initially assumed the position of director of player personnel in 2010, one of his first moves was to acquire Ted Ginn Jr. from the Miami Dolphins.
The Niners did benefit from Ginn, too, who had three special teams touchdowns in his first two seasons in the Bay. Since Baalke has been general manager, players like Kyle Williams and Kassim Osgood have also been at the bottom of the depth chart as versatile contributors.
Having said that, this offseason could present Baalke and the 49ers with an opportunity to acquire what could be their most esteemed fifth man yet. After eight seasons in the Windy City, Bears legend Devin Hester is now a free agent and has already sold his home in Chicago, per the Chicago Tribune.
This is an interesting development for the 49ers, who could benefit from the kind of dynamic he brings.
The return ace, aptly tagged with the moniker “Anytime,” has made his name by slicing up kickoff and punt coverage teams.
He ran right into the history books too, tying Hall of Famer Deion Sanders with an NFL record of 19 non-offensive touchdowns, via Pro Football Reference. One more, and Hester will have his own special place in NFL lore.
Now looking for a new home and unlikely to be paid handsomely, No. 23 may desire a ring to go with his accolades. That narrows his options down to about six or eight teams. And considering which teams have a need for a returner and could lure a player, San Francisco stands out as a fit.
Moreover, it would be foolish for the 49ers to discount the fact that Hester is available just because he’s 31 years old. He is a known game-breaker with his speed, which he hasn’t lost yet at his age because he’s been confined to a special teams role for most of his career.
He hasn’t taking a beating on offense.
His $1.8 million base salary last year was also chump change. The Niners could squeeze this on their books and dangle performance incentives in front of him. All in all, this looks like a logical, low-risk signing the team can make in free agency that would enhance part of the team at great value.