Fresh start needed?
Hester still has value just as returner
Bring back Devin Hester, and exercise some creativity with how he's deployed on offense. Based on Hester's first seven seasons in the NFL, it's clear Hester probably will never pan out as a full-time receiver.
But guess what? There's nothing wrong with that.
"When you have a guy with that kind of talent -- and he does have talent, contrary to what a lot of people say -- he feeds off success, and any guy like him has to be involved," former Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said recently on "The Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I've heard we're going to have 'The Devin Hester Package.' I've heard that for I don't know how many years. I'm a part of it, but I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it come into fruition on Sundays. But I think a guy with his ability, the more you get it to him, the more you see the better he is."
That's true on some levels. But it's not about involving Hester for involvement's sake. It's all about the impact of Hester's involvement.
That's clear when you look at Hester's numbers. When Hester catches three passes or more in games, the Bears own a win-loss record of 20-17. But when Hester takes a kickoff or punt to the house for a touchdown, the team's record is 13-4. Again, it's about impact.
So if Hester never lines up again as an offensive player, it's still worth it for the Bears to bring him back as return man, especially considering he's set to receive a base salary in 2013 of $1.857 million. Hester hasn't scored a return TD in more than 20 games, but can you really point to signs of him falling off in terms of speed and elusiveness? Hester is the main reason Chicago's average drive started at the 24-yard line (No. 7 in the NFL).
So while Hester isn't an every-down receiver, he's arguably the best return man ever, and he's a player the new coaching staff surely can find at least a small role for on offense as a decoy/gadget man, similar to the role Josh Cribbs filled in Cleveland a few years back.
Hester wants a fresh start? Well, isn't that what he's got now with new head coach Marc Trestman?
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Bears better off with fresh start
Devin Hester needs out of Chicago to ease his frustration.
And the Bears need wide receivers on their roster capable of working with quarterback Jay Cutler, if in fact Cutler is the team's quarterback for the foreseeable future, a matter that remains up for debate.
For those two reasons alone, the Bears need to grant Hester his wish and give the three-time Pro Bowl return man a fresh start in a new NFL city, where the quarterback isn't named Jay Cutler.
I'm not taking sides in the battle between the two players. Hester is far too sensitive sometimes and failed to capitalize on several opportunities this past season, including a dropped touchdown pass in a must-win game in Minnesota.
And Cutler is, well, Cutler, an issue the Bears need to think long and hard about before they consider signing an 84.0 career passer with one playoff victory in seven seasons to a lucrative deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million a year.
But in this debate, the quarterback wins. And if the quarterback doesn't like a receiver, what's the point of keeping the wideout on the roster? Especially a player that is a third, fourth or even fifth option.
Some might argue the Bears need to keep Hester based on his special teams value. But his return game has suffered the past two years due in some part to his confidence being shattered over his inability to find a role on offense.
That's not a knock on Hester. That's not a defense of Hester. That just seems to be the reality of the situation.
So instead of going through this ridiculous, annual offseason exercise of finding a way to better use Hester on offense, the Bears need to try and trade Hester for a late-round pick and be done with it.
Or just let him go.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.