Updated: 3/07/2014 8:55 am
Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The most prolific return man in NFL history will have to find a new home if he intends to play next season.
The Chicago Bears announced Thursday that Devin Hester will not be re-signed, making the 31-year old an unrestricted free agent on Mar. 11.
"For the past eight seasons we have been honored to have Devin Hester as a part of our organization," Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers."
Hester is the NFL's all-time leader in punt return touchdowns (13) and total kick return touchdowns (18). Including his 108-yard missed field goal return touchdown, Hester's 19 overall return touchdowns are tied with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for the most in regular-season history. When adding Hester's 92- yard kickoff return touchdown to open Super Bowl XLI, his 20 overall return touchdowns (including the postseason) are an NFL record.
"Not only is Devin a special player, he is also an exceptional person," Emery added. "He is a great teammate, husband and father. Devin represented the organization off-the-field as well as he did on it. When his career is over, he will always be a welcome member of the Bears family. We thank him for his dedication and wish him and his family all the best."
In 123 games played (46 starts) over eight seasons (2006-13), Hester's 3,241 punt return yards are eighth most in NFL history and his 12.3 punt return average ranks fifth.
He is the Chicago's all-time leader in total return touchdowns, punt return touchdowns, punt return yards, kickoff return yards (5,504), total kick return yards (8,745) and second in all-purpose yards (11,632).
As a receiver, Hester had 217 receptions for 2,807 yards with the Bears.