Devin Hester should be applauded and appreciated for setting the all-time return touchdowns record on Monday Night Football last night. But when it comes to his team, the best chance for the Bears to make themselves perennial championship contenders should include trading their electric return man. Here's why.
1. His value might never be higher
After his second season in the NFL there was talk of trading Hester, possibly in a deal for a quarterback, but such talk was disregarded and the Bears set off to turn Hester into a number one wide receiver. Hester's stock immediately plummeted in 2008 when he showed both ineptness in being a wide receiver, and his return game suffered compared to his first two seasons. Hester's value was better before the 2008 season than it is now, when there was a possibility that he could become a star receiver as well, but at least now Hester's return value is back up.
2. He will never be the receiver the Bears have always needed
It's clear now that Hester will never be more than a number three wide receiver, and the reverse and screen plays designed for Hester to use his speed have more often than not failed. Hester can be used as a wide receiver, but the Bears can always give Devin Aromashodu or Rashied Davis more playing time and achieve the same results in the receiving game. Hester's only real value is as a return man.
3. The return game won't drastically suffer
No matter who the Bears have sent back to receive punts and kicks, they have had success. Danieal Manning still makes the most of his return opportunities when he gets the chance, and Johnny Knox did a very good job returning kicks last year. Hester is right, he owes a lot to the special teams system he plays in and the people he has blocking for him. The Bears will lose Hester's knack for getting into the end zone on kicks, but in terms of getting the offense in good field position, the Bears have pieces in house to do so.
4. Teams can always kick away from him
Its amazing that teams haven't figured this out yet, but when they do Hester immediately loses all of his value. Sure teams kicking out of bounds away from Hester could net the Bears five or ten yards in field position, but that's not why the Bears value Hester. Would the Bears rather have Hester who could earn the offense 30 or 40 yards in field position over the course of a game, or a number one wide receiver who could give them one-hundred yard games through the air and give Cutler a go-to in the red zone?
5. The Bears have bigger needs
Chicago still has glaring holes in the offensive line and at wide receiver that need to be addressed before Jay Cutler and Mike Martz can build an elite offense. Trading Devin Hester could certainly help to address one or both of those needs. It will be difficult to trade for a number one receiver or offensive lineman without more in the deal, but Hester might be able to net draft picks for the Bears to fill their main needs.
Devin Hester is special. But what it all comes down to is need, and right now the Bears need a number one receiver and an offensive line makeover far more than they need Devin Hester returning kicks.