FRIDAY, 9:40am: Speaking to reporters today, including ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure and D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (all Twitter links), Hester confirmed he had been seeking $3-4MM per year. The veteran return man added that he received interest from 13 teams, and that he had also been considering the Bucs, Niners, Dolphins, and Seahawks before reaching an agreement with Atlanta. As Ledbetter writes, Hester ultimately signed a three-year, $9MM pact with the Falcons, including a $2.5MM signing bonus.
THURSDAY, 2:18pm: The Falcons have bolstered their special teams unit, agreeing to terms on a three-year contract with free agent return specialist Devin Hester, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Hester had visited with the team earlier in the week.
One of NFL’s all-time great kick and punt returners, Hester has played increasingly less on offense in recent years for the Bears, contributing exclusively in the return game in 2013. Although he turned 31 in November, Hester still led the NFL with 1,436 kick returns on 52 attempts, good for a 27.6 average, and threw in a punt return touchdown for good measure. For his career, Hester has 19 return TDs, tied for an NFL record.
Earlier in the week, we heard that Hester was seeking an annual salary in the $4MM range, but it would be surprising if Atlanta went that high, unless very little of the total amount was guaranteed. Still, it sounds as if he won’t necessarily be used exclusively on returns in Atlanta. ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure tweets that the Falcons told Hester they’d find creative ways to use him, which suggests the longtime Bear may see some snaps on offense.