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Who will be this year’s Cordarrelle Patterson for the Falcons?

Even if Patterson comes back, the Falcons will be looking for breakout candidates in free agency.

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

The signing of Cordarrelle Patterson did not pass without remark in 2021, because signing one of the greatest kick returners of all-time is not a move that flies under the radar. Still, I think most of us expected that Patterson would only be an occasionally fun and useful option on offense instead of perhaps the team’s most feared weapon through much of the season. Thankfully, he blew those modest expectations out of the water, setting career highs in every receiving and rushing category and managing nearly 1,200 combined yards and 11 touchdowns on offense.

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot may well re-sign Patterson, but more than that, he’s looking to replicate his success with that signing in free agency this year. If Patterson comes back and is excellent again, it will no longer be a surprise and it won’t come at a ridiculous bargain price. What this team would love to do is find one or more players who, like Patterson, perhaps are a little undervalued and underutilized, but can truly blossom in Atlanta with the right role.

Finding that player is obviously not easy, or we’d see more Patterson-like breakouts in this league. The fact that he appears to be a once-in-a-lifetime success story, the next player the Falcons add who ends up being a smashing success is still likely to be much less impressive than CP84. If they can help the team for a relatively affordable price, though, we’ll be more than happy and so will the Falcons. It’s just difficult to guess who it might be.

I’ll throw my hat in the ring for Cam Sims. The soon-to-be-former Washington Commanders wide receiver has intriguing size and is quite familiar with Kyle Smith, the former Washington executive who is now one of Fontenot’s top lieutenants in Atlanta. He showed in 2020 as a part-time starter that he can be a threat with the ball in hands—Sims averaged more yards after the catch than before the catch that year—and he’s been underutilized to this point in his career enough to think that he’ll be signed pretty affordably. The physicality, height, and glimpses of upside make me think he could have at least a modest breakout campaign with the Falcons in their decimated receiver corps, and the connection to Kyle Smith makes me think they’ll have at least some level of interest.

Who is your pick for a player who could break out like Patterson in Atlanta?