We've been wondering how the Falcons would clear a roster spot for returning receiver and returner Devin Hester, and now we have our answer.
Falcons activated WR Devin Hester from the short-term IR list and placed WR Leonard Hankerson on IR.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 4, 2015
This sucks for Hankerson, of course. He had been dealing with injuries for the past several weeks and seemed doubtful to play, but it's surprising to see him land on injured reserve, which ends his season. The Falcons must have thought he had a multi-week recovery in front of him, and they badly need healthy bodies at receiver right now. Devin Hester will immediately slot back into the kick and punt return gigs for Atlanta, where he's one of the most dynamic players in NFL history, and he should pick up at least a handful of snaps at receiver. His speed gives the Falcons another option out there, at least, and Matt Ryan could use all the options he can get.
Hankerson finishes his 2015 season with 26 catches for 327 yards and three touchdowns, mixing stretches of productive receiver play with some truly backbreaking drops. He came into the season as the team's de facto #2 receiver, having eclipsed Roddy White over the course of training camp and the preseason, and seemed to have a pretty nice rapport with Matt Ryan early on. He's still just 26 years old and was playing on a one-year deal, so chances are he'll land somewhere without much trouble this coming offseason, even if the injury issues are going to scare some teams off.
Earlier this year, I would've said Hankerson would return to this football team without hesitation, given his strong ties to Kyle Shanahan and encouraging production. With drops and injuries plaguing him and now this unfortunate, season-ending ailment, though, we'll have to see what his Falcons future looks like.
We wish Hank Time well, either way.