Devin Hester, Eric Weems will share returns

We asked a few days ago why a team that boasts the best returner in NFL history would add another one in free agency. The likeliest explanation was for depth purposes, but absent any official word from Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery, we were left to wonder if the arrival of Eric Weems meant anything for incumbent Devin Hester.

So we should point out that, during a conference call Thursday with reporters, Emery suggested that Weems would play a complementary role to Hester and that both would be on the team in 2012.

Emery noted the Bears' "very strong tradition of having multiple returners and having more than one weapon as a punt and kick returner" in explaining the move. Indeed, the Bears have used Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning to various degrees in recent years. Knox is recovering from a serious back injury and might not be ready to start the season. Plus, Weems signed a relatively affordable three-year deal worth a total of $4.2 million, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.

As for Hester, it's true that his original contract called for a $10 million roster bonus. But as ESPN's John Clayton reported at the time, the bonus was based on Hester ascending to a statistical status as the Bears' No. 1 receiver. He has not done that over the course of the contract and thus the roster bonus will de-escalate to a lower value and not impact whether the Bears retain him on their roster.