Monday, March 17, 2014
Hixon adds competition for Weems, Bennett
By Michael C. Wright
At first glance, it seemed Chicago’s signing Thursday of receiver Domenik Hixon might spell the end for players such as Eric Weems or Earl Bennett, which might eventually be the case.
But from the looks of Hixon’s one-year deal worth $823,750, it appears he’ll have to beat out Weems and Bennett to stick as a special-teamer and possible No. 3 receiver.
“We’re bringing him in to compete, to find a spot on our roster,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “Obviously we like his size. I always like receivers that come in and they’re about an inch and a half taller than me. He’s got huge hands, great straight-line speed. He’s been a good [special] teams player. He’s returned kicks. So it’s up to him to find his spot on the squad, and that opportunity is there. That’s what we’re trying to create: competition. Best man wins.”
Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Hixon, 29, definitely holds an advantage over Weems and Bennett in the size department. But statistically, Hixon, Bennett and Weems have posted comparable numbers with the new addition besting his counterparts in punt return average (10.7 yards per return) and kickoff return average (24.6).
But as a receiver, Hixon isn’t as accomplished as Bennett. While both have spent the same amount of time in the league, Bennett has caught 76 more passes for 817 more yards, but he could find a tough time in training camp holding off rising second-year man Marquess Wilson for the No. 3 receiver spot. Besides that, Bennett hasn’t been asked to contribute much as a return man throughout his career (22 combined returns).
Hixon caught just seven passes last season for the Carolina Panthers in 15 games, and despite plenty of experience as a return man, he wasn’t asked to perform such duties with his former team.
Weems, meanwhile, played a similar role to the one filled last season in Carolina by Hixon. Weems caught one pass for 8 yards in 2013, and returned three kickoffs for 42 yards, in addition to playing a key role on the club’s kick coverage units (13 special-teams tackles). Weems carries a $1.6 million salary-cap figure into 2014, while Bennett will count $2.45 million against the cap.
Given the players’ prior contributions and their respective salaries, it appears Weems could be affected the most by the addition of Hixon. But either way, the acquisition could make for an interesting battle between the three at training camp, provided the Bears don’t cut ties with one of the players prior to that time.
“We’re certainly going to give [Hixon] an opportunity to return some kicks in practice, and see what it looks like in preseason,” Emery said.