Thursday, July 24

This Man is Worth More Than $445,000

Well there was a brief hiatus from the ASD, both Catfish and I are working on other projects and by other projects we mean life. Hopefully we can return to jotting down our brain droppings on a regular basis in time for football season. That’s right, as July lumbers into the month of Caesar Augustus, football finally becomes a soon to be reality for the American sports community. There are so many stories already, but attempting to detach myself from the incessant Favre coverage, I focus on a story that jumped out at me today.

Devin Hester is the most electrifying player in the NFL today. There is no argument for that statement. There are better players, more productive, more skilled players out there, but none have the home run potential of Hester. Not to say others are not close, but clearly number 23 is at the top of the list. He is two returns behind Brian Mitchell who holds the record at 13, and he’s only 25. So why would the Chicago Bears, a team whose prospects for 2008 look shaky at best, not give him a new contract?

Hester was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft. He signed a contract that gave him $445,000 a year and at that time, it seemed fair because no one would know how he would fair in the league. He had the blazing speed but even at Miami he seemed to be somebody without a defined position. He could run back kicks, but where would he fit into the offense/defense? The pick has obviously paid off many times over for the Bears. A team that struggles to score on offense was given a special teams weapon that could put points on the board and provide excellent field position. He had 5 returns his rookie season and also returned the opening kick-off of Super Bowl 41 for a TD. Last year he had six more returns and also two as a receiver, including an 81 yard reception against the Vikings. Hester had now shown he could possibly develop into a deep threat receiver and set to work in the off-season to hone his route running and ball catching. Yet here we sit at the start of training camp and Hester’s salary has not risen one cent.

To put Hester’s importance to the Bears “offense” in perspective, his two catches represent roughly 11 percent of their receiving touchdowns. Besides that, anyone who can catch multiple touchdowns from a bears quarterback should be praised. His return touchdowns represent a little less than one-fourth of the all the Bears passages into the end-zone last year. Not calculated was the field position he often gave to the Bears as well, considering his 15.5 yard return average. You would think on a team that has been known for offensive struggles that your premier offensive weapon would be taken care of. But the Bears have instead seen to it that Lance Briggs walked away with a new deal, Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Alex Brown all received new contracts. Even Desmond Clark got an extension, with Greg Olson waiting in the wings at tight-end.

Hester, to his disservice, has played the Latrell Sprewell card saying there is no way he can “go out and play making $445,000. Come on man.” Words are not Hester’s forte, but running with the football is and if the Bears did not have him the last couple seasons, they would have found it hard to make the Super Bowl or even manage a 7-9 records last year. People point to the greedy athlete and that argument is a basic one from ignorant message board fans who think it is silly that someone making six figures complains about his plight. Well, in case they didn’t notice athletes make millions of dollars and are watched and discussed by millions of people all the time. It’s a fact of life. Do teachers, policemen and firemen deserve more money? Of course, but it is the way things are. According to the market value in the NFL, Hester is worth more than $445,000. The Bear’s GM Jerry Angelo says there is no more money to give. This after signing their first-round draft pick, tackle Chris Williams of Vanderbilt, to a five year $16 million deal. It is expected that Hester will eventually suit up and play, especially if the Bears can’t shell out more money. They have Devin locked up through this season and next, so there is little Devin can do in the near future but hold out and ask for a new deal. If it doesn’t come, don’t expect him to stay in Chicago in 2010. The Bears have plenty of problems to deal with this season, they even had a coin flip to decide which quarterback was going to practice with the first team. Without Hester on the field, their prospects become even bleaker.

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