The Miami Dolphins have used the NFL Free Agency period this offseason to systematically address their needs, specifically along the offensive line, signing left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith. That does not mean general manager Dennis Hickey is against the luxury signing. Saturday, the potential of a luxury signing raised its head.Free agent kick and punt returner Devin Hester was in South Florida this weekend, hosting his USA Football FUNdamentals clinic at Rivera Beach Suncoast High School, Hester's alma mater.
South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Chris Perkins caught up with the man who holds the NFL record for most career touchdown returns with 18 during the camp, and asked him about the possibility of Hester returning to play for his hometown team. "I would love to play for the Dolphins," Hester replied.
That is, of course, just the player expressing an interest in joining a team. No where in that statement is there an implication that Miami would be interested. The conversation, however, continued, with Hester explaining 13 NFL teams have contact his agent, and that the Dolphins are among that group.
Now, we can say there is interest from both sides. Could a deal bring Hester to Miami? Would Hickey sign a player who will contribute almost primarily as a returner, without much prospect of helping out at wide receiver? And, is Hester, who will turn 32 during the season, an upgrade at this point in his career over the devloping Marcus Thigpen, Miami's retuner last year? Hester averaged 27.6 yards per kick return and 14.2 yards per punt return in 2013, while Thigpen averaged 22.3 per kick return and 7.8 per punt return. Seems like a clear upgrade, right?
Hester also said he would not be against giving wide receiver another shot, having opted out of the role - with the coaching endorsing the decision, if not agreeing with it - last year with the Chicago Bears. Hester has 217 career receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns. It's not a role he seems to enjoy, but he explains that, “Me and some of the guys on the offensive side weren’t on the same page. I said if we’re not on the same page we can just let me focus on kickoff and punt returns...It just didn’t click on the offensive side of the ball.”
Miami does not need a lot of help at the receiver position this offseason, with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Armon Binns, Rishard Matthews, and Ryan Spadola already on the roster. Adding a player who can come on the field and perform in spot duty at wide out, while focusing primarily on the return game, could be exactly what the Dolphins need.
Will Miami pull the trigger on Hester? He does not seem to be in a rush to sign with a franchise, especially if he does not feel it is the right fit for him, which could play even more into Miami's favor, as they pursue other players before coming back to Hester.
The move would obviously excite the fan base, seeing a player who claims he ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash last week back to return kicks, and, it could be the refreshing start for Hester to come home and play the end of his career in front of his family.