The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday they have released veteran receiver Devin Hester, the most accomplished return man in NFL history.
Hester missed the first 11 games of the 2015 season as a result of a toe injury, for which he had surgery in January. He did not participate in any offseason activities while recovering.
In May, Hester told ESPN he wouldn’t be surprised if the team released him.
“At the end of the day, I feel like it’s going to come down to how my toe feels,” Hester said. “If my toe isn’t ready, then I can’t fault them for letting me go because it’s a business. I can’t go around thinking I’m safe if I’m not playing. I do understand that.”
Hester, a former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, holds the NFL record for return touchdowns 20, a record he set with the Falcons against the Bears during the 2014 season. Hester made the Pro Bowl that year with the Falcons.
Hester, a four-time Pro Bowl selection overall, also holds the NFL record for punt return touchdowns with 14.
It’s unclear if Hester plans to keep on playing or intends to retire.
This marks the second high profile player the Falcons have released going into 2016. They also released Roddy White, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.
Hester suffered a turf toe injury following the third preseason game at Miami last season and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, but his inability to push off and cut made him functionally ineffective through the last five games of the season. Hester returned nine kickoffs for 235 yards with a long of 35 yards. He returned eight punts for 34 yards with a long of 11.
He wasn’t used on offense last season.
Hester was signed through next season and due to make $3 million in 2016 with cap figure of $3,833,334. The Falcons saved $3 million in cap space by releasing him.