Initial suggestions that he could reunite with former coach Smith in Tampa Bay.
Chicago Bears record-setting returner Devin Hester has revealed that he will not return to the franchise next season, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
While the Bears have yet to comment on the situation, the 31-year-old has spoken to NFL Network and posted a message on his official Facebook page to confirm that the two are “parting ways”.
Having spent eight years in Chicago, Hester matched Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders’ NFL record with his 19th return for a touchdown against Washington last season, while the three-time Pro Bowl pick is best remembered for returning the opening kickoff in the 2007 Super Bowl for a touchdown.
While the Bears went on to lose to Indianapolis, Hester is remembered fondly by the fans despite a failed attempt to make him a receiver, and he will now depart along with punter Adam Podlesh although defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was signed to a two-year deal.
“From my knowledge, I know that Chicago wants to go a different route with me,” Hester told the NFL Network, as reported by ESPN.
“All I can say is thanks to the fans for their support. They’ve always been great to me. Always been loyal. I couldn’t have played for a better city than those guys. At the end of my career, I do want to retire as a member of the Bears.”
His touchdown return against Washington was his first in nearly two years, but Hester led the NFL with a career-high 1,436 kick return yards on a league-high 52 tries.
Nevertheless, it appears as though he will now begin the search for a new team, and he has already stated his willingness to be reunited with former coach Lovie Smith at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite enduring one of their worst defensive seasons ever last year, the Bears have signed 10 players who were due to become unrestricted free agents after March 11, which is the most of any team in the league.