By Adam Hoge
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — Devin Hester has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Bears, but if that doesn’t happen, he has another idea.
“Most definitely,” he said when asked if he’d welcome a reunion with Lovie Smith should the former Bears head coach get a job this offseason. “If I don’t get resigned here, it’s going to be up to me and my agent, and we going to weigh our options and try to get something done.”
Hester finished his 2013 season strong in Sunday’s 33-28 loss to the Packers, gaining 127 yards on five kick returns and 49 yards on one punt return. He only had one touchdown on the season though, and finished the year needing just one more score to break Deion Sanders’ record for the most return touchdowns in NFL history.
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Hester’s wide receiver duties were taken away when Marc Trestman was hired as the Bears’ head coach in the offseason and he spent the 2013 solely as a returner. He made $1.86 million this season, but his cap figure was $2.94 million. Given his limitations and age — he’s 31 years old — the Bears might be able resign him at the veteran minimum, which was $840,000 in 2013.
That could be enough to bring him back, even if a reunion with Smith is on the table.
“I don’t want to take it that far,” Hester said. “I’ve done a lot of things around here. It’s my eighth year. I do want to retire as a Bear, but at the same time, this is a business and it’s up to the guys upstairs whether or not I stay around.”
When Lovie Smith was fired a year ago, Hester was crushed and discussed retirement, but he appeared to accept his limited role with the team this year and still provided value. For one, the Bears probably wouldn’t have beaten the Vikings in Week 2 without Hester’s 249 return yards.
With over $40 million in cap space this offseason, bringing the best returner in NFL history back for almost nothing would seem more than plausible, even if he has lost a gear.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.