Are Hester's days at WR over?

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
11:51
AM ET
Devin HesterRob Grabowski/US PresswireIf Devin Hester remains with the Bears, his exclusive role may be that of return man.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Devin Hester's days of lining up at wide receiver in Chicago might be over.

Bears general manager Phil Emery made no mention of Hester contributing on offense on Thursday when he responded to a question about the three-time Pro Bowler's current role on the team. Rather, Emery told reporters that Hester will "compete" for the club's return job in the offseason, if he remains on the roster. Hester, who has one-year left on his contract, has said publicly that he is open to the idea of being traded.

"Right now, he is back," Emery said. "He'll go out there and compete to be our returner. What he does from beyond there will be determined how he does in that first role as a returner."

Arguably the greatest returner in the history of the game, Hester struggled on punt return last year where he averaged just 8.3 yards per return, but still accounted for a respectable 25.9 yards on kickoff return.

The real issue for Hester has been his inability to develop chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler in the passing game. Hester caught only 23 passes last season for 242 yards and one touchdown. While Cutler is far from blameless when it comes to Hester's decline as a wide receiver, Hester did fail to capitalize on several key opportunities in 2012 which hurt himself and the team. It's difficult to imagine Hester and Cutler ever getting on the same page, which is why the idea of the Bears moving on from Hester seems plausible.

Hester still has plenty of supporters around the league who believe he can succeed on offense in the right system and with the right quarterback, but the odds of that occurring in Chicago seem slim to none.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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