NFL AM: Devin Hester Released; End Of His Career?


Hester Released

The unquestioned greatest return man in the history of the NFL may very well have played his last snap, as the Atlanta Falcons released 33-year old Devin Hester.

“He passed his physical,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said of Hester. “It was a football decision for us in the very end. Again, not to be evasive about it, we wish him all the luck. And we think it’s best for the organization for us to move forward.”

Hester was a four-time Pro Bowler and has what appears to be an unbreakable NFL record with 20 return touchdowns.  He missed 11 games last season with turf toe, and there are questions whether he has much, if anything left in the tank.

“We have been trying to treat his toe injury the best we could, and he has been doing everything in his power to get back on the field, but at this point we think this is the best plan of action,” coach Dan Quinn said last season. “We are confident this time will let Devin get healthy and be a big contributor to this team once he is back on the field.”

He was anything but a big contributor last season.  Hester wasn’t used at all on offense and his salary is a little much for a return man as he was due $3 million for the 2016 season.

This was pretty much a no-brainer type of decision for the Falcons.

The question now moves to whether any team will give him a shot to compete, and just as importantly, will he take that shot at the veterans minimum salary?

With all the rule changes revolving around kickoffs, the returner position has become somewhat vestigial.  Hester is highly unlikely to receive an offer in the multiple seven-figures at this point in his career coming off an injury.

If he doesn’t play again the question moves to whether or not Hester belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

We broached this topic back in 2014 before he became the all-time record holder for return touchdowns.

What did Hester think a few years ago?

“When you talk about the Hall of Fame, you really don’t talk about special teams,” Hester told the Chicago Sun-Times. “You talk running back, linebacker, receiver, quarterback kind of guys. The first time a special-teams guy made the Hall of Fame — he just opened up the window for everyone else.”

I asked him about it again last season.

“I try not to worry about all of that,” Hester told Football Insiders.  “I think I’m the best of all time and hopefully that will be good enough, but at this point I’m not thinking about all of that.  I just want to win games.”

Perhaps the best argument for his induction was made by Alex Hickey two years ago when he penned this paragraph.

Over the course of his career, Devin Hester has proven himself to be the best to ever play his primary position on the field. If that’s not worthy of the Hall of Fame, what is?

Can you really argue with that?

Lions Ink Boldin

The Detroit Lions were quietly one of the hottest teams in the second half of the 2015 season.

Offseason disaster struck in Motown when perhaps the greatest player in franchise history (along with Barry Sanders), wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired.

You can’t replace Megatron with one guy, but Detroit tried by signing former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones.  They are about to get better and tougher at the position as ESPN is reporting that the Lions have agreed on a one-year deal with Anquan Boldin.

Boldin will be competing for a roster spot behind starters Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.  This puts him in competition  with TJ Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Fuller, Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts, Quinshad Davis and Jay Lee for what is probably four roster spots.

The 35-year old Boldin has never relied much on speed to succeed, as he’s always been the guy that will go over the middle and make the tough catch in traffic.  He’s also been a great red zone threat as he’s a master at using his body to box out smaller defenders.

Quarterback Matt Stafford will enjoy throwing to a player that he can always count on to make the routine and tough catches, and although the Lions don’t have Megatron in the red zone, the combination of Tate, Jones and Boldin should be efficient.

Randy Gregory Fails Drug Test

Multiple outlets are reporting that Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory, already facing a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, has missed or failed another test which would lead to at least a 10-game suspension.

ESPN’s Ed Werder is reporting that Gregory’s representatives are working on an appeal of the suspension and he has entered a treatment program.

Entering the 2015 NFL Draft, the former Nebraska star was widely considered a Top-10 or -15 talent, but a failed drug test at the NFL Combine dropped him to the second round where the Cowboys selected him with the 60th overall pick.

What is happening now was the exact fear of the 31 other teams who passed on him.

Jerry Jones taking chances on players with issues hasn’t paid off of late, as free agent Greg Hardy was a complete bust last season, finishing with just six sacks and multiple locker room incidents. In fact, when you look at the recent second-round picks of the Cowboys the results haven’t been very good.

Going back to 2011, the Cowboys have selected in this order: linebacker Bruce Carter; defensive end Tyrone Crawford; tight end Gavin Escobar; defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence; Gregory; and linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Carter isn’t on the roster; Crawford has been a contributor; Escobar has 26 career receptions in three seasons; Lawrence is suspended to begin the season, along with Gregory; and Smith will likely start training camp on the PUP list.

The good news for Jones is that he owns the team and cannot be fired, like most GM’s would be with that drafting record.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.