The Bears’ return specialist has been with the team since 2006, when they drafted him in the second round as a cornerback. The 31-year-old just completed the four-year contract extension he was given in 2008 when the team expected he would see time at wide receiver, though he did not catch a single pass last year.
Last year Hester led the NFL in kickoff returns and return yards, primarily a product of the Bears’ league-worst defense. His 27.6 yards per kick return ranked fifth in the NFL. Hester did not qualify for the league leaders in punt returns, but his 14.6 yard per return average would have ranked third in the NFL.
Hester is tied with Deion Sanders for the most punt and kick returns for touchdown in NFL history (19). Last year he returned one punt for a touchdown, an 81-yard return against the Redskins in a Week 7 loss.
If Hester leaves Chicago, one logical destination would be Tampa Bay, to play for former head coach Lovie Smith.
But Rapoport does not believe the Buccaneers will have interest in Hester, or vice versa.