Devin Hester Leaves Chicago Needing 1 Return TD to Break Deion Sanders' Record

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffMarch 6, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 29: Wide receiver Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears runs with the ball against the Green Bay Packers during a game at Soldier Field on December 29, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Per the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Bears will not re-sign return specialist Devin Hester, whose 19 career regular-season return touchdowns match an NFL record set by retired cornerback Deion Sanders.

Drafted by Chicago in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft, Hester quickly established himself as the league's preeminent return man, taking three punts, two kickoffs and a missed field goal to the house during his rookie season. He set the bar impossibly high, then somehow notched six return touchdowns for a second consecutive season in 2007.

The early-career flurry was followed by back-to-back seasons without any return touchdowns, which led to speculation that Hester's career would flame out quickly, as is typically the case for return specialists.

Instead, Hester bounced back with three punt return touchdowns in 2010, before adding two more punt returns and a kickoff return to his tally in 2011. He was held off the special teams score sheet in 2012, but finally got the record-tying touchdown on Oct. 20, 2013 with an 81-yard punt return against the Washington Redskins.

Now ready for the next chapter, Hester may be disappointed with the market for his services. Of course, that there will even be a market speaks volumes about his career, as 31-year-old return specialists aren't typically in high demand.