While there are decisions abounding for the Atlanta Falcons to make after the 2021 season, locking in running back/kick returner/do-everything player Cordarrelle Patterson should be a no-brainer.
Patterson has skyrocketed since joining Arthur Smith’s offense, sweeping past the one-year, $3 million contract he signed last offseason, surpassing 1,000 total yards on the ground and in the air and tallying 11 touchdowns on offense.
The former Chicago Bear should command a substantial pay bump in 2022 and beyond as one of the NFL’s most versatile offensive weapons, and he’ll only be 31 by March. He should get a pretty lucrative deal, but will it be the Falcons that sign him to it?
Patterson shared Wednesday that, due to the way his career has blossomed in 2021 under Smith and the turnover he’s experienced earlier in his career, staying in Atlanta would be ideal.
“I’ve been around five teams, eight offensive coordinators; being here, I feel like I’m at home. Why not just finish my career here?” Patterson said (via the Falcons). “I’m comfortable with all the guys in the locker room, the coaches, you know, and everybody so why not finish my career here?”
It’s a reunion that would make a lot of sense for both sides, of course. Patterson’s career year has catapulted him into the conversation for the best offensive weapons in the league, and he’s not guaranteed to duplicate that success elsewhere in a new offense. He’s one of the best-ever kick returners in the NFL, but the Falcons have helped him maximize the potential he had as an offensive asset since coming into the league out of Tennessee as a first-round pick in 2013.
For the Falcons, he’s been perhaps the brightest spot in a middling transition year for the team. He’s fit right into Smith’s scheme, reignited a long-stagnant rushing attack for Atlanta in a year where the offensive line has been subpar, had a clear rapport with Matt Ryan in the passing game and has become a reliable red zone option.
Patterson has become something of a fan favorite in Atlanta in his lone season here. A recent Mic’d Up session showed him mingling with fans and dedicating the team’s home win against the Detroit Lions this season to the city. Last month, Patterson even shared on Twitter that he’d love to stay in Atlanta forever. In the gaping loss of Julio Jones, Patterson has helped stabilize the offense and more than deserves to be part of this team going forward.
An extension feels like it’s destined to happen, right? In the words of Hobie Doyle, would that it were so simple.
Spotrac currently has Patterson making $9.1 million on average on a future salary going forward, which would be roughly a $6 million raise from his 2021 salary. They quote a two-year, $18 million contract being sensible for Patterson going forward.
Could Atlanta pay this? Would they? With players like linebacker Foye Oluokun, kicker Younghoe Koo and receiver Russell Gage also in line for extensions, the Falcons might not want to pay top dollar for a player in his 30s if they have eyes on investing money elsewhere in free agency (the offensive and defensive lines wave).
With the worry of regression and the high demands Patterson will rightfully have for his next deal, it’s possible the team could not meet Patterson’s asking price and the player chooses to cash in elsewhere on what might be the biggest moment in his career to cash in on a spectacular season. It wouldn’t be a popular decision in the slightest, but that’s the business. Would Patterson take a discount to stay with the Falcons?
“The GM? He need to put more than this in my locker,” Patterson joked Wednesday about the future after a “Atlanta Georgia changed my life” hoodie he was sporting appeared in his locker suddenly (via The Athletic).
Over the Cap has the Falcons with $12 million in cap space for 2022, which should rise substantially once the league’s new salary threshold becomes official for the new league year. The team also has plenty of ways to open up cap, so money shouldn’t be nearly as prohibitive as it was for the team when it was in salary cap hell in 2021.
General manager Terry Fontenot has a big decision ahead of him with Patterson’s deal. He’s become an integral part of the team’s offense and special teams (and defense if you include that time he was a safety on the depth chart), and he’s become one of the guys that could help fill seats and get Atlanta back into actual playoff contention. He’s been that good this year and an improved Falcons team in 2022 could only make him better.
Patterson’s also got the endorsement of Ryan, who said Wednesday he’d love to have Patterson back in the fold next season.
“I also know it’s a business,” Ryan added (via The Athletic). “There are tough decisions that have to be made but as far as wanting him back as a teammate, of course.”
Though, until the dotted line is signed and terms are agreed to, anything is possible. Not even Ryan’s future is fully known in 2022 and beyond. It’s not a secret we all want Patterson back for the long haul of his career (he says he wants to play 10 more seasons). He’s been a joy to watch and his return makes you that much more confident this offense can get going next year. Also with Calvin Ridley’s status in the air, he makes you feel better about not having to restock the offensive arsenal quite as much when there are other parts of the roster that need help and investment.
We’ll see how Patterson’s future settles, but certainly, it’d be better for the team if it involved him sporting a red-and-black jersey for years to come.