Don’t worry Bears fans, Devin Hester isn’t going anywhere
BY SEAN JENSEN Twitter: @skjensen March 22, 2012 12:06PM
Just because the Bears signed Pro Bowl returner Eric Weems doesn't mean Devin Hester's days in Chicago are numbered. | Getty Images
Updated: March 22, 2012 2:01PM
When the Bears signed Pro Bowl special teamer Eric Weems, some speculated that perennial Pro Bowl return specialist Devin Hester could be in trouble.
The Bears value special teams as much as any other team, and they saw an opportunity to add a player who is versatile. Besides, new general manager Phil Emery knew Weems well, having served as the college scouting director in Atlanta, when the Falcons added him as an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman.
Weems can be a gunner, he can return punts and kickoffs. He can also serve as a backup slot receiver.
So how will this affect Hester?
In reality, the Bears didn’t get as much out of their kickoff return unit as they are accustomed to. Johnny Knox was solid, but Hester mostly handled the role and had modest results. A drop off from what Danieal Manning had done before leaving via free agency.
With Johnny Knox’s status still unclear, Weems provides another proven, capable player, who can ease the burden on Hester. The Bears will probably give Hester a chance to get snaps at receiver and — ever mindful of his snap count — they’ll have him focus on punt returns and perhaps have Weems be the primary kickoff returner.
Weems didn’t excel last season, but he averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff in 2010, when he also returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. That season, he had five returns of 40 or more yards.
There was a mix-up last week, because of an escalator Hester had in his contract. But that $10 million escalator was only triggered IF he reached certain marks as a receiver. He obviously did not.
Hester was brilliant for most of last season, but he staggered to the finish because of a few injuries. There’s no reason to think he won’t be a difference maker in 2012, which is why Hester will remain in a Bears jersey.