The Philadelphia Eagles almost signed one of the best returners in NFL history last year.
During his retirement press conference on Monday, Devin Hester revealed the Eagles wanted to sign him after Darren Sproles suffered an ACL injury in Week 3 of the 2017 season.
“This [decision to retire] probably came after the [January 14, 2017] playoff game when I was in Seattle. I was like: ‘It’s family time.’ Of course, last year I had teams blowing me up, trying to sign me. Even Philly tried to sign me after Darren Sproles got hurt. But there was just something inside of me that like, you know, 11 years in [the NFL], I have a family now. And I missed so much time with those. So it was really makeup time for me.
So the minute [the Eagles] called, I asked my wife: ‘What should I do?’ Of course, she was like ‘Go play! Live out your dream. Do it.’ And the time off that I had, spending with my kids, and my wife, just being there, really, really, like, said this is what I missed out on. My first five or six years in the league, I never went home during the summer time. I always stayed up there and worked. I worked, I worked, I worked. […] I really didn’t put that time in that I wanted with my family. The moment I sat home after about two or three months was like ‘Wow, this is shocking, man.’ I never realized the things I do with my wife, my kids, getting to know them. I felt like I couldn’t leave them. It was time for me.”
Though he ultimately missed out on getting a Super Bowl ring, Hester didn’t seem to regret his choice to call it a career and spend time with his loved ones instead.
It’s fun to think that the 2017 Eagles could’ve been even better than they were if Hester didn’t stay retired. As a reminder, this is a three-time All-Pro player who holds the following NFL records: total career return touchdowns (20), career punt return touchdowns (14), and total return touchdowns in one season (6).
The 35-year-old Hester hardly would’ve been the player he was in his prime but he still could’ve provided an occasional spark for Dave Fipp’s special teams unit.
But alas, it was not meant to be. The Eagles ended up signing Kenjon Barner to replace Sproles instead. Barner finished the 2017 season with an average of 8.9 yards per punt return and 19.4 yards per kick return.
The Eagles should aim to upgrade at returner through the 2018 NFL Draft this year.