Bears agree to new four-year deal with Hester
It's the type of thing the Chicago Bears are hoping to see a lot during the regular season after signing Hester to a four-year contract extension.
ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton is reporting the four-year deal is worth at least $30 million, of which $15 million is guaranteed. But according to a source, it also includes a $10 million roster bonus in the final year if Hester reaches performance levels of a No. 1 receiver over the course of the contract. The bonus "de-escalates" to account for performance below the level of a No. 1 receiver.
The maneuver is similar to the one Chicago gave defensive tackle Tommie Harris in June. Harris has a de-escalator clause that requires him to make the Pro Bowl in three consecutive years, among other requirements, in order to reach the maximum level of bonus money in the deal.
"I think the Bears have a lot of faith in me, and they feel that I do a lot of things on the offensive side of the ball, so they rewarded me," said Hester, who in two seasons is two touchdown returns short of Brian Mitchell's record of 13 kick or punt return touchdowns -- a mark that took 14 years to set.
After a standoff between Hester's agent, Eugene Parker, and the team ended Sunday morning, Bears coach Lovie Smith wore a huge smile.
"I'm smiling most of the time I'm talking about Devin Hester; now I can a little bit more," Smith said after practice.
At issue for the Bears was whether to pay Hester like a return man or like a top wide receiver when they made him the 22nd player on the current roster to receive a contract extension. They converted Hester to wide receiver last year when he made 20 catches, and this year expect him to start in place of lost free agent wide receiver Bernard Berrian.
"This one was probably the most difficult one we've had to do and probably ever will do because we're not only rewarding a special player," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "If you look at it as a returner, we blew that [money total] out of the water. It was now looking at him as what he might be or could be as a receiver. That's where the real difficulties were and a real challenge."
It was a challenge that led Hester to hold out for two days before reporting Friday and watching from the sidelines for two days with what the Bears called a hamstring injury. After signing Sunday, he showed no signs of a hamstring pull.
"It's feeling great," Hester said of the hamstring. "It's a little tight, but I was able to push through it and just try to work it out and stretch it a lot. Right now I feel great. I wouldn't say it's a major issue."
The best moments from Devin Hester's historic season highlighted by some of his most ridiculous returns.
The deal adds four years to the two years already remaining on Hester's contract.
The Bears this past year also negotiated contract extensions for Grossman, kicker Robbie Gould, linebacker Brian Urlacher, tight end Desmond Clark, defensive end Alex Brown and Harris, and signed linebacker Lance Briggs and quarterback and Kyle Orton to new deals.
"I don't think I've ever been this busy in an offseason, and I don't think I ever will again," Angelo said. "We did a lot, hopefully we accomplished a lot."
Angelo said it should be obvious now he wasn't just paying lip service to the notion that the Bears try to reward their own.
"Talk is cheap," Angelo said. "We put teeth into it. The good news is the players we have here want to be Bears. Certainly they want their money, we're all understanding of that, but they also make the commitment to me, to [coach] Lovie [Smith] and to our fans that they want to be Bears."
Now comes the task of turning Hester into a premier wide receiver. He struggled learning the offense at times last year.
"Last year he was a guy who was a return specialist, obviously, that was going to be a part-time player at receiver, play a little bit and have a small package in the offense for him," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "This year he's committed to being a full-time receiver and to learn the entire offense. We didn't hold anything back in the minicamp and [offseason workouts] so he's way ahead of where he was last year at this time. He's made that commitment and he's learned it and done a good job and we're excited to get him back out there."
Information from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Sharper's attorneys to question Ariz. evidence
- Sources: Jets, ex-Titans RB Johnson agree
- Peyton ready to move on from Super Bowl
- Source: QB Freeman, Giants agree to deal
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
TRAINING CAMP 2008
Commentary/featuresWarner proves he has future
The Cardinals gave Kurt Warner the chance to compete with Matt Leinart for the starting spot, and the 37-year-old quarterback made the most of the opportunity. John Clayton
Pennington's learning curve
It seemed the Jets could not help Chad Pennington pack his bags fast enough. Now the most experienced QB on the Dolphins, he's relishing the chance to excel again.
• Kreidler: Future still promising for 49ers' Smith
• Clayton: Injuries impact preseason
• Seifert: A new approach in Detroit
• Smith: Favre drama a reality check for McNabb
• Kuharsky: Titans focused on defense
• Sando: Running key for Holmgren's swan song
• Mosley: Giants hope history teaches well
• Garber: Coughlin distances from SB win
• Williamson: Chiefs engergized by youth
• Chadiha: O-line might hold real keys for Jets
• Wickersham: Three tips for Favre
• Mosley: Giants done with celebrating
• Naylor: Canadian divide on NFL invasion
• Graham: Sleeper Bills | Blog: Yo, Canada
• Seifert: For a change, no distractions for Vikes
• Mosley: McNabb confident Eagles among elite
• Kuharsky: Garrard taking control
• Mosley: Eagles poised to return to prominence
• Clayton: Young on his way to elite status
• Kuharsky: Garrard ready to lead Jags
• Chadiha: Delhomme determined to seize moment
• Yasinskas: Smith's approach suits Falcons
• Mosley: Zorn's coaching desire finally fulfilled
• Williamson: Young Raiders share Kiffin's hunger
• Graham: Jets wiping slate clean
• Chadiha: Turner ready to lead Falcons
• Clayton: Vikings firmly in Jackson's corner
• Walker: Tough schedule awaits Steelers in 2008
• Mosley: Favre is QB turned ringmaster
• Clayton: 5 reasons Favre would start for Pack
• Graham: Patriots not dwelling on past
• Sando: Rams optimistic despite questions
• Williamson: Shanahan points to playoffs
• Walker: Bengals look to move past chaos
• Yasinskas: Delhomme, Peppers must step up
NFL blog network• NFL Nation blog
• AFC: North | South | East | West
• NFC: North | South | East | West
• Contact our bloggers
Camp Confidential training camp tourA breakdown of our annual camp tour:
• Wednesday, July 30: Chargers, Cowboys
• Thursday, July 31: Texans, 49ers
• Friday, Aug. 1: Patriots
• Saturday, Aug. 2: Bengals, Panthers
• Sunday, Aug. 3: Broncos
• Monday, Aug. 4: Rams
• Tuesday, Aug. 5: Steelers
• Wednesday, Aug. 6: Jets
• Thursday, Aug. 7: Raiders | Redskins
• Friday, Aug. 8: Falcons
• Saturday, Aug. 9: Jaguars
• Tuesday, Aug. 12: Eagles | Vikings
• Wednesday, Aug. 13: Bills
• Thursday, Aug. 14: Chiefs
• Friday, Aug. 15: Giants | Seahawks
• Saturday, Aug. 16: Bucs | Lions
• Sunday, Aug. 17: Browns
• Monday, Aug. 18: Titans
Video• NFL Insiders on Bills, Broncos, more
• Rachel Nichols on Favre, Jets
• NFL Live dissects ESPN.com power rankings
Audio• Podcast: Biggest questions
Scouts Inc.• Camp outlook: AFC Q&A on X's and O's
• Camp outlook: NFC Q&A on X's and O's
• Notable quarterback battles
- Nike Men's Alternate Limited Jersey Chicago Bears Devin Hester #23