Even as the Chiefs enjoyed a record-setting season returning kicks last season, special teams coordinator Dave Toub often measured the club’s success against a lofty standard: Chicago kick return man extraordinaire Devin Hester.
Toub was the Bears’ special teams coach when Hester began his reign as the best return man in NFL history, and on Thursday, the Bears released Hester in a salary-cap driven move.
Hester, 31, is said to be headed for Tampa Bay, now coached by former Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
But, for a moment, and understanding the Chiefs aren’t in position to hand over $2 million-plus for a part-time player, it can’t hurt to dream a little.
The Chiefs will need a dependable kick returner if they don’t re-sign free agents Dexter McCluster and Quintin Demps.
McCluster led the NFL with two punt returns for touchdowns and ranked ninth with an 11.8 yard average. Demps ranked third in the NFL in kickoff returns with a 30.1 yard average and had one touchdown.
Hester, even at his age, didn’t do so badly himself. He ranked third in punt returns with a 14.2-yard average, including an 81-yard touchdown; and he was eighth in kickoff returns with a 27.6-yard average.
The Chiefs still have running back Knile Davis to return kickoffs. Davis, who returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown -- one yard shy of the NFL record -- and Demps helped the Chiefs set an NFL record for kickoff returns with a 29.9-yard average.
So signing a free agent kick returner, even a future Hall of Famer, may be a luxury the Chiefs can’t afford, unless Toub can convince Hester to take an incentive-laden contract.