Devin Hester is done returning kicks in Chicago.
The Bears confirmed Thursday that they are parting ways with the three-time Pro Bowl pick after eight seasons, confirming what he told the NFL Network the previous day. So instead of a return to Chicago, he’ll hit the market as a free agent.
General Manager Phil Emery said it had been an honor to have Hester on the team.
“While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers,” he said. “… When his career is over, he will always be a welcome member of the Bears family.”
Hester matched Hall of Fame member Deion Sanders’ NFL record with his 19th return touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard punt return at Washington in October. It was Hester’s 13th punt return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.
Two people familiar with the situation said Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t ruled out the quarterback’s returning to the team.
Vick will become a free agent next week, and the four-time Pro Bowl pick has made it clear he’ll look for an opportunity to be a starter. One person said that if Vick doesn’t find the right fit elsewhere, he will consider staying in Philadelphia.
Both people spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they’re not discussing contract negotiations publicly.
As expected, the Denver Broncos said they released cornerback Champ Bailey after 10 seasons with the team.
His release was a cost-cutting move, with the 12-time Pro Bowl player scheduled to make about $10 million next season.