Devin Hester is a work of art when it comes to one thing. He's a savant as a kickoff and punt returner.
Last season Hester tied cornerback/return man Deion Sanders' NFL record of 19 total returns for a touchdown. Even though he's turning 32 this year, the former University of Miami standout is viewed as an elite talent when it comes to the return game.
The problem is Hester has never managed to learn any other position in his three season with the Hurricanes, and eight years with the Bears. That means he's a one trick pony, and in today's NFL that's not a good thing.
The Dolphins have expressed some interest in Hester, who won't be re-signing with the Bears, and has expressed a desire to play for his hometown team. But it doesn't seem like Miami is as hot on Hester as other teams are. He's presently visiting the Atlanta Falcons and hopes to find a new team in the coming days.
Hester averaged 27.6 yards on 52 kickoff returns last season, which was good enough to rank him fifth in the NFL in 2013. It was his second best kickoff return average, and the most kickoffs he's returned in his career. Of those 52 returns, 42 of them were returned for 20-plus yards, and five were returned for 40-plus yards.
The Bears were ranked fourth in the NFL in average starting spot for kickoffs (24.4), which was nearly four-yards better than the Dolphins' average (20.6).
But Hester handled just 18 punt returns last season, taking just one back for a touchdown. He averaged 14.2 yards on punt returns, fielded 11 fair catches, but didn't return enough to be ranked amongst the league's leaders.
His 19 touchdowns on returns averages out to 2.3 per season during his career. But he's only scored one touchdown on a return the past two seasons. Marcus Thigpen has scored two.
But as dynamic as Hester is, and as troublesome as the Dolphins' return game was last season because of Thigpen'ssecond-year slump, the Dolphins aren't in position to sign a one-trick pony in my opinion.
The Dolphins aren't one player away from winning the AFC East division, and if Hester could fill another role it would be easier to give this eight-year veteran a 2-year, $4 million contract.
The Dolphins would be better off pursuing a player like Jacoby Ford, another South Florida native, who established himself early in his career as a dynamic returner, and a productive receiver. Ford, who has scored five touchdowns in his four NFL seasons, is younger (26) than Hester, more versatile, and possesses some upside if he can stay healthy.
A player like Ford could provide the Dolphins' injury-decimated receiver unit an extra body, and one that could serve as a deep threat. I know Miami's special teams coach Darren Rizzi was a major fan of Ford when he was a draft prospect.
If I felt like Hester, who has caught 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in his career, could do more as an offensive weapon this would be an easy decision. But his struggles learning an offense throughout his eight seasons is a major red flag, and his age hints he's little more than a stopgap NFL player at this point.