Falcons Welcome Windy City Wonder To Atlanta
Atlanta Falcons fans, the Devin Hester free agency watch is over. You all can now see one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history take kickoffs and punts to the house each and every Sunday.
“ATL wuts up baby I'm here,” announced Hester via his personal account on Instagram.
According to ESPN.com, the former Chicago Bear agreed to a three-year deal. The value of the contract was not initially disclosed, however, D. Orlando Ledbetter of AJC.com has since reported that Hester signed a three-year, $9 million deal with a $2.5 million signing bonus. That is close to the $4 million per year that Hester was searching for.
The main reason why Hester is a great fit for Atlanta is because the team needs help with returning punts - something Hester knows a thing or two about. The Falcons averaged 8.3 yards per punt return last season, which was passable but not enough to scare the opposition. The future Hall of Famer scampered for 12.3 yards per punt return over the course of his stellar career thus far. Hester's best year (in terms of average punt return yardage) came in 2010 when he recorded a robust 17.1 yards per return. At any rate, Hester can help double last year’s team average, which could put Atlanta in the Top 5 for punt returns. And do not forget that he is the master of taking returns back for touchdowns, owning the record with 13 scores.
The Falcons plan to use Hester in “creative ways” this season. Throughout most of his time in Chicago, Hester played wide receiver along with taking over the kickoff and punt return duties. During his time at the University of Miami, he played some cornerback, took snaps on offense and starred as the No. 1 return man.
I expect the coaching staff to continue to allow Hester to return kickoffs and punt returns, since he is famous for either giving teams great field position or scoring touchdowns on returns. In addition, he is the all-time leader in PR/KR touchdowns with 18, and he has 19 total special teams TDs if you include the blocked field goal return against the New York Giants in 2006. The Falcons can use Hester in some plays as a receiver, where he can catch screen passes, run fly routes and run for chunks of yardage on end-arounds. Hester had a career year receiving in 2009 when he caught 57 passes for 757 yards and scored three TDs. He is more than capable of being a third or fourth receiving target in Atlanta. Hester does not need to be the primary receiver - that gig belongs to Julio Jones.
Considering that they need a safety to cover the deep ball alongside William Moore, the Falcons should consider trying out Hester at the FS position. He picked off five passes as a CB for the Hurricanes, and he is still a speed demon at age 31. Why not give Hester time to learn the defense? Coaches can let him roam around and cover the deep ball. He could even intercept passes and score in all of his hi-stepping "Primetime" glory. Or he will at the very least give the offense good field position. I doubt that Atlanta will let him play on defense though. I project Hester to start as the primary returner while seeing a few snaps at receiver.
There is another reason why I speculate that the former "Windy City Wonder" took his talents to Atlanta. His mentor is Hall of Fame CB and return man Deion “Primetime” Sanders.
And guess what team he played for at one point?
Yes, you guessed it!
Sanders was a Falcon from 1989 to 1993. Atlanta was the first team to see his greatness on defense and special teams. I am not surprised that Hester wanted to play for his mentor’s former team. He can even excite the fans like Prime and help put more fans in the Georgia Dome.
“I’m a hype guy,” Hester said in a conference call with the media on Friday. “I want to get the crowd involved in this phase of the game. I think special teams is a key to the ball game, for our field position, putting points on the board and setting the momentum of the game, the tempo. I’m going to go in there and do my best to bring excitement and help this offense in field position and try to put points on the board as well.”
I can’t wait to see Hester wow the fans with more amazing returns for touchdowns this season, and he only needs one more to break Primetime’s record for total special teams TDs.
Until then, feel free to watch more of Devin Hester’s highlights.