The biggest news of the day ended up not being rookie offensive tackle Chris Williams agreeing to a contract to prevent him from holding out, but instead the holdout of electrifying return man Devin Hester.
Viewing a recent poll on ChicagoSports.com, I see that 63% of respondents are on Hester’s side compared to just 37% who are on management’s side. Once again, I am in the minority and disagree with Bear Nation.
Let’s look at the facts here. Devin Hester is arguably the best return man in the history of the game, and he has shown nothing more than glimpses of being a good wide receiver. But Jerry Angelo has said in the past that the organization typically does not negotiate with players who have only two years of NFL experience and who also have more than two years remaining on their rookie contracts. For example, Nathan Vasher was publicly upset with his contract following his second season in the league and Angelo told him to come to camp and he’ll get rewarded the next season, which he did.
Hester needs to show he can be a prime time wide receiver before he gets paid prime time bucks. Notice how I’m using the words “prime time”, because — call me crazy, but — I believe Hester’s holdout is a direct suggestion from Mr. Primetime himself, Deion Sanders, whom Hester worships as a god. The only good deed that Deion has done for Devin was keeping him in line after Hester began showboating following his second kick-return touchdown against St. Louis in Hester’s rookie season. Other than that, Deion has taught Hester to make a spectacle and get the media to side with him.
All I can say is that I hope the Bears do not give in to Hester’s pouting. What’s the worst that would happen if the Bears were without Hester’s services for the entire season? Their receiving corps would be roughly the same and Bears fans would miss a few exciting kick returns.
Let’s be clear here: Hester has no leverage. According to him, he’s scheduled to make $445,000 this season and the Bears will be fining him approximately $15,000 each day he skips training camp. What that means is that his salary for this season would be dried up if he skipped a month’s worth of training camp and preseason. Not a smart move, even though he has endorsements.
What Hester needs to do is play year 3 of his contract as a full time receiver, prove that he’s capable of being more than just the world’s greatest return man, and then get his pay day next off-season.