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Devin Hester unlikely to return to Chicago Bears

It appears to be the end of an era in Chicago.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Devin Hester likely will hit the free-agent market as the Bears have not attempted to re-sign him, according to a source who has spoken to the return specialist.

Hester, who joined the Bears in 2006 after the team drafted him in the second round as a cornerback, has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times for his exploits fielding punts and kickoffs. He shares the record for most combined return touchdowns in NFL history (19) with Deion Sanders.

In 2013, Hester compiled a career-high 1,436 kickoff return yards and an additional 256 yards and one touchdown from punt returns. However, it's worthy of note that his 52 kickoff returns were a career-high number and his 18 punt returns were a career low -- arguably the product of an embattled defense that failed to keep opposing offenses off the scoreboard during inopportune times.

Even more telling is the fact that after registering at least 20 receptions leading up to 2013, Hester didn't catch a single pass last season.

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A reunion with former Bears coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay would be one potential option, but Rapoport opined Tuesday that such a move would be improbable.

Perhaps Hester -- who made a base figure of $1.857 million in 2013 -- could land on a contender with enough salary cap room and aspirations of elevating its special-teams unit another level. Either way, while he's still a dynamic force, the 31-year-old specialist's destination is uncertain for next season.

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