In 2021, the Atlanta Falcons offense was a dumpster fire. Atlanta was tied with the Chicago Bears for the fifth-worst offense at scoring touchdowns. They were also fourth-worst in total offense and second-to-last in rushing yards. So, it is peculiar that one of the more highly touted free agents for Atlanta is a running back. If you can even call him that. Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot took flyers on several one-year rentals to fill out the roster. From Duron Harmon and Erik Harris to Mike Davis and Brandon Copeland. Most of them gave back decent returns on their investments but nothing rather special. Then, there’s Mr. Patterson. Cordarrelle Patterson not only played over his contract; he became the number-one option in Smith’s arsenal. But now, there’s a dilemma. Is re-signing Cordarrelle Patterson the best option for the future? It seems, based on the evidence, that they should. The question is: Can they?
The Curious Case of Atlanta Falcons Re-Signing Cordarrelle Patterson
When the Falcons brought in Cordarrelle Patterson in April 2021, he was used more as a special team virtuoso. He signed a one-year deal worth three million, based on his accolades as a kick returner. Or did he? Sure, Patterson did have a kick return touchdown in his last two years with the Chicago Bears. Yes, Patterson tied for the most kick return touchdowns in NFL history. But there was more to him. There was a reason that Patterson was able to amass 600+ yards while playing mainly wide receiver in his rookie year with the Minnesota Vikings. Even with Christian Ponder at quarterback and being the third option behind Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. Arthur Smith planned to unlock the potential that Patterson showed back in 2013.
In 2021, that potential was unlocked to the tune of 52 receptions, 548 yards, and five touchdowns. It seems that these numbers aren’t much more impressive than his from his rookie year. But, there’s a huge difference. He accumulated this production primarily from the running back position.
He accumulated 618 yards on 153 attempts while adding six more touchdowns. With eleven touchdowns, this made for Cordarrelle’s most productive season in his career. His versatility and ability to break a shorter play wide open gave opposing defenses something to gameplan against. Besides generational talent Kyle Pitts, there were no other aspects of the offense to fear. Is it enough to warrant paying for his services in 2022 and beyond?
There is much speculation as to what Patterson’s market will become at the start of free agency on March 16. One day before the aging star’s 31st birthday. Not many playmakers can continue to get better after their 30th birthday.
Also, there is the fear of regression because this is the first time Patterson has been able to produce like this. For most of his career, Cordarrelle has been nothing more than a gadget player. A player who brings a spark now and again from off of the bench. A spark plug, if you will.
Another downside: The Falcons are strapped for cash, badly. According to Overthecap.com, the Atlanta Falcons have only $10.5 million to work with in cap space.
Cordarrelle Patterson should be back to the Falcons on one condition: He takes a discount on his asking price. Patterson has been valued to be worth as high as a two-year deal worth over $18 million. If he is willing to take a pay-cut in the ballpark of two years worth around $14 million, let’s say $10 million guaranteed paid throughout the contract, the Falcons should pull the trigger.
The problem is, there are teams with more cap space that will be willing to overpay for the older star. For example, the Los Angeles Chargers have $62+ million in cap space before free agency. Plus, Staley was defensive coordinator at Hutchinson Community College when Patterson made his stop there on his way to the University of Tennessee. Relationships like these lead to overpayments and push teams like Atlanta to the backburner. For Patterson, it’s all about one crucial question: Will the two sides be able to cut a deal? That’s the only way that re-signing Cordarrelle Patterson makes sense.
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