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Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Falcons can't let Hester leave town

By Vaughn McClure

The Atlanta Falcons have to find a way to corral one of most elusive players in the game.

Record-setting return man Devin Hester visited Atlanta on Tuesday, and all indications were he stayed overnight to mull over a chance to play with the Falcons. The Miami product wasn't re-signed by the Chicago Bears, allowing him to walk into free agency.

Hester
Hester previously told ESPN.com Atlanta interested in him. But home is Miami, which is why Hester recently said he would love to play for the Dolphins.

But that's probably not the key team in the equation. Hester has an obvious tie to former Bears coach Lovie Smith, now the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hester is close to members of the Bucs' staff and probably wouldn't pass up an opportunity to be reunited with Smith and the others.

That is why the Falcons have to move quickly if they want to keep Hester from having an impact elsewhere -- particularly within the NFC South. His price range reportedly has been between $3 million to $4 million per year. He made just over $2 million last season with the Bears.

The players obviously want Hester in the building. Receiver Roddy White tweeted about showing Hester around the weight room and hoping he would sign. Safety William Moore was all smiles when Hester's name was mentioned during a football camp for mothers in the Atlanta suburbs on Tuesday night.

The signing of return man Javier Arenas on Tuesday should have no bearing on Hester's status. Arenas is being looked at more as a competitor for the nickelback role who is capable of returning punts and kicks. Hester would be the primary return guy, if signed.

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out. The 31-year-old Hester isn't the same player he was in his 20s, but he's still is a dynamic return man. Playing inside the Georgia Dome for half the season should only help his cause.