The Atlanta Falcons released Devin Hester on Tuesday, which immediately resulted in tweets at me asking if the San Francisco 49ers should sign him. Hester was inactive much of last season with a toe injury, but return for the final five games of the season. His toe issue flared up and he had surgery in the offseason, which cost him some prep time. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Hester passed his physical, and it was purely a football business decision.
Bruce Ellington is the 49ers incumbent returner, and the team has Bryce Treggs, DeAndrew White, and others getting some opportunities to return the ball. Any team that might sign Hester would do so exclusively for return work. That likely removes him from the radar of a lot of teams that will be looking for a little more versatility from their returners.
For the 49ers, Ellington could find himself getting a lot of work in the passing game. One question with that is if he the team should remove him from the punt and kick return positions to focus exclusively on wide receiver. Ellington has been a solid kick returner for the 49ers, finishing ninth last season with 25.6 yards per return. He also averaged 7.2 yards per punt return.
My guess is Ellington ends up returning kicks once again, but the first preseason game will give us an idea of who else might be in the mix.