2014 NFL Off-Season: What is Devin Hester's real worth?

2014 NFL Off-Season: What is Devin Hester's real worth?
Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The ridiculousness might be over in the Chicago.

Devin Hester also known as the "Windy City Flyer" has not been approached by the Bears this off-season about a contract extension according to NFL.com's insider Ian Rapoport. (UPDATE: Bears announce Hester will not be re-signed via press release on Thursday).

The 31-year-old speedster has been with the Bears since 2006, where he has piled up 19 career return touchdowns tied for the NFL record with Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders. That's not even counting the incredible opening kick-return touchdown he scored on in Super Bowl XLI.

Drafted in the second-round in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Miami, Hester has turned many eyes in Chicago with his returning abilities including Bears announcer Jeff Joniak, who often referred to him as ridiculous.

Even as he gets older, Hester is still proving to be very capable of making game-changing plays to help his team. Despite mulling over retirement after longtime head coach Lovie Smith was fired by the Bears last off-season, Hester managed to post solid numbers.

Hester only touched the ball 70 times all on returns (52 on kickoffs and 18 punts), but managed to return an 81-yard punt return for a score, his first return touchdown since 2011.

The punt-return touchdown was his 13th of his career, which further extended his NFL record in that category. He also averaged 27.6 yards per kick return, which ranked fifth in the league. It was his second-best average in his career behind only his 2010 campaign (33.3 yards per kick return).

"Hopefully we can get something done. Like I said, I want to retire as a Bear," Hester said to the media after a season-ending loss to Green Bay on Dec. 30. "I put in too much hard work here, and I did a lot of things around here and I’m pretty sure the fans want me back. So who knows?”

12 of his return touchdowns came during his first two seasons in the league. He has seven return touchdowns since 2010, including a three punt-return touchdowns that season and two punt-return touchdowns and one kick-return touchdowns in 2011.

What's Hester's real value at this point in his career?

He performed at a high level a year ago serving strictly as a returner for the first time in his career. In 2006, he focused mainly on returns, but he also earned snaps at cornerback.

During the 2008 off-season, Hester made the move to wide receiver and the Bears saw a special situation brewing as they rewarded him with a four-year, $21.9 million contract.

Hester earned $1.85 million last season perhaps his last with the team. The real problem lies within the Bears organization. With a large focus to improve the defense and at re-signing a group of key free-agents, the cap room is at a minimum.

The Bears can save a huge chunk of cash by cutting the large salary of aging defensive end Julius Peppers and by cutting or restructuring the contracts of running back Michael Bush, wide receiver's Earl Bennett and Eric Weems and punter Adam Podlesh.

Even if they choose to do all or some of those things, the main focus is clearly on defense after the Bears wrapped up all of last season's starters on offense through 2014 well before free agency.

Hester has the skills left in the tank, but is he worth $1 million per season?

I mean he only touched the ball 70 times last season, but his longest kick return (80 yards) and longest punt return (81 yards) were both double his season-longs in 2012. He proved he still has what it takes to play in this league.

Head coach Marc Trestman made the right decision to use Hester exclusively on special teams last season. Hester seemed more comfortable focusing on one position. I'd still like to see Hester be used on offense as either a decoy or home run hitter wherever he lands.

He's closing in on a deal for his Riverwoods mansion after claiming the house doesn't fit his needs now that he has a family.

It makes sense on paper for the Bears to allocate the position and the money to someone who will contribute on offense or defense. '

A couple of in-house options are second-year running back Michael Ford and wide receiver Chris Williams. Ford returned 20 kickoffs for an average of 27.5 yards in his junior season at LSU, while the 5-foot-8  Williams had great success in the CFL the past couple of years.

But sometimes teams value certain players a little bit more than others. Hester makes boneheaded decisions on returns from time to time, but he was always a fan favorite at Soldier Field because of his play-making abilities.

Even though Hester's days with the Bears are officially over he could provide value to another team on a fair one-year deal for under $1 million. It would likely be his last NFL season going on age 32. Lovie Smith should give Devin a call.

Thoughts on the future of Devin Hester? What do you think his real value is?

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