Our ongoing look at the Falcons 2022 free agent class continues with one of the most intriguing of them all: Cordarrelle Patterson. The 30 year old free agent was brought in with the expectation of him being a kick return specialist and he morphed into one of Atlanta’s only reliable weapons in 2021. His one year deal for 3 million looks like a major bargain compared to his production, but is he worth more to this rebuilding team? Let’s take a look.
153 carries, 618 yards, 4.0 yards/carry, 6 rushing touchdowns
69 targets, 52 receptions, 548 yards, 10.5 yards/reception, 5 receiving touchdowns
The case for signing Patterson
The Falcons are the first team to truly unlock Patterson’s potential. He had a career year in Atlanta and had his highest single season totals for rushing yards and receiving yards in his nine year career. In a year where the offense struggled, he was one of the few bright spots. His energy has captured the hearts of fans and his teammates, and it’s clear he wants to finish his career in Atlanta.
Right now, Mike Davis is the only running back from the 53-man roster who is under contract for 2022 and between the two players, Patterson proved to be far more valuable to the team. Cutting Davis can free up $2.5 million in cap space, which should help in making room for a new deal for Patterson. Qadree Ollison will also be an inexpensive re-signing and Caleb Huntley is on a reserve/future deal, so the Falcons do have some options.
The case against signing Patterson
This Falcons team is not one player away going into 2022. While there’s hope they can improve next year, it may be 2023 before this can be a playoff caliber roster given the cap limitations and roster-building challenges ahead. Patterson was an incredible value signing for 2021, but he’s likely looking for a much bigger payday going forward. Some have suggested an average of $6 million per year on a two-to-three year deal, which may be too much for a franchise that will still be dealing with cap issues in the next couple of seasons.
As good as Patterson was this year, he will be 31 and the team will need to get young at running back at some point in the near future. While the wear and tear is much lower for him compared to other guys his age, his productivity fell off pretty dramatically over the last five games of the season. He failed to reach 60 combined yards in any of the games from Week 14 forward, and if they team is going to re-sign him, they’ll want him to be healthy and effective over 200-plus touches again.
The verdict: Toss-up
This one is really tough. Patterson was incredibly valuable to this team in 2021. He was the Falcons’ leading rusher and third in receiving yards. He has homerun potential every time he touches the ball. He wants to be back and Atlanta really needs to build some continuity going into 2022, and he’s the kind of player you want to keep because of his talent and enthusiasm.
Yet, his age and drop-off in productivity at the end of the season are concerning. He’s going to want more money and a longer-term deal and that just may not be the right fit for Atlanta. If the team can work out a deal that makes sense within their cap limitations for Patterson, it absolutely makes sense to bring him back and let him thrive in this offense again. His market in free agency may make that impossible.