After much speculation about where he would end up after being cut from the Chicago Bears and even a story about his possibly retiring from the NFL, Devin Hester has been signed by the Atlanta Falcons to a 3-year deal. The Falcons announced the news today, but didn't reveal any of the terms of the deal. With this move, the Falcons have found an electrifying wide receiver who does most of his damage on special teams. This move instantly makes them better on special teams if you take a look at the stats.
To go down some of his greater accomplishments, Hester is a three-time Pro Bowler tied the NFL record for return touchdowns in 2013 recording his 19th career return score. He's been named an All-Pro by the Associated Press three times and was on the AP's All-Decade team 2000s. In his prolific career as a returner, He has scored touchdowns on 13 punt returns, five kickoff returns and has even brought back missed field goal return.
Here are some numbers for those who may believe that his best years are behind him. Hester's numbers just last season eclipsed every returner on the Atlanta Falcons' roster by leaps and bounds. Over the course of the 2013 season, he averaged a higher punt return average in fewer attempts than the Falcons' best punt returner last season, Robert McCain. On kick returns, if you compare Hester to the Falcons' top returner in Jacquizz Rodgers, Hester has double the attempts and nearly three times the yardage. During the 2013 season, he led the NFL in total return yards with 1,692 and kickoff return yards with 1,436. He was also named for the 13th time NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. He even set a single-game franchise record with 249 kick return yards against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2. This is one of those cases where one man's trash is another man's treasure.Photo Credit: thedevinhester.com
The Bears are going in a different direction. They have abandoned the idea of having such a dynamic returner in favor of young receivers who can make big plays. Hester would be a great addition as a slot receiver. He has skills that would make him a headache to linebackers who can't keep up and defensive backs who would be drawn in. This would open up deep routes for Roddy White and Julio Jones. After all the moves they made to get their team up to par, this is the type of move that makes them better than the average.
If you look across the NFC South, Atlanta has made a strong move by comparison. The Carolina Panthers are losing wide receivers, Tampa Bay is trying to find a quarterback to lead their team, and the Saints are still trying to deal with their best receiver, Jimmy Graham. The Falcons are now filling those spaces and plugging in those small areas that make the major difference between a mediocre team and a playoff team.