Former CFL star kick returner Chris Williams might have the inside track as we speak to replace Devin Hester’s role on the Bears. The signing of former Giant and Panther Domenik Hixon might not change that, but it gives special teams coach Joe DeCamillis options. It might also provide some roster and money-saving options.
Hixon has just eight punt returns the past three seasons and no kickoff returns since 2009, when he had 57 for the Giants. That came two years after his kickoff returns helped New York make a playoff run that ended with a win in Super Bowl XLII. He also had just seven receptions in Carolina’s offense last season after 39 with the Giants in 2012. That versatility certainly creates the competition Marc Trestman and Phil Emery want, but it could also create more salary-cap space before any competition begins.
Eric Weems has been used very little on offense in his two seasons with the Bears and carries a $1.6 million cap hit, which includes $500,000 in dead money the Bears would be forced to eat if they decide to cut him. Earl Bennett, on the other hand, has fought injuries the last couple of seasons, and while being a more highly used weapon than Hixon, his $2.45 million cap figure includes no dead money the team would have to absorb.
When asked about any potential scenarios Thursday, the general manager kept strictly to what Hixon would add.
“We’re bringing him in to compete and find a spot on our roster,” Emery said. “Obviously we like his size (6-foot-2), he has huge hands and great straight-line speed. He’s a good (special) teams player, he’s returned kicks. It’s up to him to find a spot on this squad, and that opportunity’s there. That’s what we’re trying to create: Best man wins.”