The Atlanta Falcons have upgraded their return game by adding one of the best kick and punt returners in NFL history, per one of the most reliable reporters in the business:
Former Bears return specialist Devin Hester agreed to terms on a 3-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, per ESPN source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 20, 2014
Terms have not yet been disclosed.
Devin Hester may be 31 years old, but there's no doubt he's still one of the premier kick and punt returners in the league. He led the NFL in return yardage in 2013 and ranked in the top ten in both punt and kick return averages. On the all-time list, he's tied for 8th in kick return touchdowns, 8th in punt return yardage and 1st in punt return touchdowns. It has been an amazing career for Hester, and now it continues in Atlanta.
Let's get this out of the way right now: Hester's not really going to be much of a weapon on offense. He was pressed into service in Chicago and never became more than a passable option in the passing game, and that's not going to suddenly change at age 31. At best, Hester can get occasional snaps out of the slot, but it's likely that the Falcons already have five superior receiving options. I wouldn't mind being wrong about this, and Vaughn McClure suggests I might be:
Falcons told Hester they'd figure out some creative ways to use him, so I expect to see him some on offense.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 20, 2014
He'll do his damage on special teams, where he's the best returner the Falcons have had since Allen Rossum. Even if you think he's due for decline, something like 25 yards per kick return and 12 yards per punt return would be an amazing improvement and would give the Falcons consistently enhanced field position. Sometimes five yards is the difference between a punt and a field goal, or a field goal or a score, so even if he's not the guy who takes multiple kicks and punts to the house this season, he'll have considerable value. We don't know the price just yet, but as long as it's reasonable, it's hard not to like this move.
I know many of us are focused on getting a new safety and seeing pass rushers added to the roster, but those moves will come between now and the end of the draft. For now, let's enjoy the added sized on both lines and the addition of one of the better returners of our time.
Welcome to Atlanta, Devin Hester.