Cordarrelle Patterson is arguably the most high-profile free agent the Atlanta Falcons have to decide what to do with this offseason. Keeping him seems like the most logical move, especially after the 30-year-old enjoyed a career season during his first year in Atlanta.
Patterson, a gifted kick returner and raw wide receiver, transitioned to running back full time. The switch paid dividends when he led the Falcons in rushing yards and touchdowns.
His performances mean the Falcons will find it hard keep Patterson if several suitors declare interest once free agency begins on Wednesday, March 16. One NFL writer believes an AFC East franchise with a new head coach could pay a premium to use Patterson’s hybrid skills in a role akin to San Francisco 49ers‘ running and receiving sensation, Deebo Samuel.
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Patterson Predicted to Get Paid in 49ers-Style Offense
In a long list of bold predictions for the 2022 NFL offseason, Yardbarker’s Seth Trachtman named Patterson a target for the Miami Dolphins. Specifically, Trachtman believes the Dolphins hiring former 49ers’ offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as head coach could put Patterson in their sights.
Trachtman wrote: “It could be an attractive situation for Patterson after a breakout year in Atlanta, with the possibility of being used in a similar role with his new team a la Deebo Samuel in San Francisco.”
Patterson’s interest could be piqued by the way McDaniel took Samuel’s game to another level by keeping the playmaker on the move, per PFF Fantasy Football:
This isn’t the first time Patterson has been compared with Samuel. The latter inspired the Niners to within a game of reaching Super Bowl LVI thanks to his dual-threat skills on the ground and as a pass-catcher.
Samuel caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns. He also carried the ball 59 times for 365 yards and eight rushing scores on McDaniel’s watch.
Those numbers make Samuel a deluxe version of Patterson, who paced the Falcons with 153 rushing attempts for 681 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 52 receptions for 548 yards, including five more scores.
Patterson’s numbers were creditable since he didn’t have the talent around him Samuel enjoyed in San Francisco. Both players headlined a league-wide trend to get receivers more involved as running backs last season.
The Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar credited both with “blurring the lines between receiver and back to the great benefit of their offenses.”
Farrar also felt Patterson and Samuel were helping create a new position: “And by hybrids, we’re not talking about running backs taking screens and swing passes out of the backfield. We’re talking about true receivers on paper who make things excessively difficult for opposing defenses because those defenses never know what they’re going to get.”
Patterson can relate thanks to how Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone re-designed their running game around his speed and power. Smith and Ragone weren’t afraid to run Patterson out of one-back sets, like on this play from Week 16’s 20-16 win over the Detroit Lions:
Patterson has shown glimpses of what he could do with a Samuel-level workload. Whether he takes on that kind of a role in Atlanta or elsewhere, will depend on hard, financial realities.
Falcons Can’t Afford a Bidding War
One of the points that makes Trachtman’s scenario a concern for the Falcons is his reference to the Dolphins having “plenty of cap space.” It’s not a luxury the Falcons share.
General manager Terry Fontenot is projected by Spotrac.com to be as much as $5,885,266 over the cap this year. That depressing number is in sharp contrast to the situation in Miami, where GM Chris Grier is set to have $64,672,642 at his disposal.
The numbers don’t lie and they tell the Falcons they can’t enter any bidding war for Patterson. He may even welcome interest from a team with the Dolphins’ fiscal resources if it means the chance to cash in and earn a lucrative, long-term contract.
Patterson has previously expressed a desire to stay with the Falcons, mostly through his activity on social media. He retweeted this image showing some designer cleats with a telling message:
Patterson also said he’s found a home since moving to Atlanta, per Falcons Multimedia Features Reporter Kris Rhim: “I feel like I’m at home. Why not just finish my career here? I’m comfortable with all the guys in the locker room, the coaches, you know, and everybody so why not finish my career here?”
Things can change, though, and the longer Patterson goes without receiving a new offer from the Falcons, the more restless he may become. Some of his latest twitter activity could signal a change in mood:
If Patterson enters the market, the Falcons will find it difficult to bring him back. Especially if he’s promised a role like the one that’s made Samuel a star.