Phil Emery keeps collecting special-teams players, as the Bears signed wide receiver Domenik Hixon to a one-year deal on Thursday.
Hixon, 29, spent the 2013 season with the Panthers and had seven catches for 55 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. That touchdown was the game-winner against the Saints.
From 2007-12, Hixon played for the Giants. He had 39 catches for 567 yards in 2012 and 43 catches for 596 yards in ’08.
Hixon had nine special-teams tackles for the 2007 Super-Bowl winning Giants.
"We're bringing [Hixon] in to compete, to find a spot on the roster," GM Phil Emery said on a conference call. "Obviously we like his size. I always like wide receivers that come in and are about an inch taller than I am. ... Great straight line speed, huge hands. It's up to him to find his spot on the squad. That opportunity is there."
As a returner, Hixon had 57 kickoff returns in 2009 for an average of 22.6 yards a return. He had a kickoff-return touchdown in ’07 and a punt-return score in ’09, but he has not returned a kickoff since ’09 and has only eight punt returns in that span. With Devin Hester's time in Chicago done, the Bears will be searching for a new return man, and Hixon will get his chance.
"We're certainly going to give him an opportunity to return some kicks in practice and see what it's like in the preseason," Emery said.
The addition could provide competition for Eric Weems, another receiver who mainly contributes on special teams. Hixon has more experience as a receiver and Weems has a cap hit of $1.6 million for 2014, per Spotrac.
In three days of free agency, the Bears have signed Hixon, Ryan Mundy, Jordan Senn and M.D. Jennings, all players with plenty of special-teams experience.
The Domenik Hixon signing is chicken soup. It can't hurt but whether or not he ends up helping is anyone's guess. Hixon is a nice athlete with good size for the wide receiver position and two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, but a long list of injury woes including two ACL tears. He can be a very valuable special teams contributor, has significant experience as a kick returner which is now a major need with Devin Hester gone and he'll compete with Earl Bennett and Marquess Wilson for the third or fourth wide receiver spot.
His signing does suggest the Bears may not he as excited about Wilson coming out of the '13 season as they were going in. Hixon is an eighth-year veteran who will turn 30 in October, which suggests he is not a lock to make the team. Wide receiver is the most talented and deepest position in this year's draft and it wouldn't be shocking if the Bears find one they like. If they do, in addition to needing to beat out Wilson, Hixon will have a lot of competition to overcome.