Cordarrelle Patterson doesn’t seem to mind the idea of his career taking him to a third NFC North team next season — or at least letting fans think as much.
Patterson, a six-time All-Pro kick returner and wide receiver who spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Bears, got speculation stirring over the past few days when he started liking a handful of tweets that pitched him as plausible free-agent signing for the Green Bay Packers.
Welcome to 2021, people.
I think he wants to be a Packer pic.twitter.com/irRqXFiisK
— Game On Wisconsin (@gameonwi) March 26, 2021
The connection between Patterson and the Packers isn’t an unreasonable one. If Patterson were signed, Green Bay would gain not only its most significant return weapon in more than a decade but also a dynamic piece for Matt LaFleur’s offense who is capable of lining up as either a wideout or running back. He has caught more than 200 passes for 2,000-plus yards and rushed for another 1,000 over his career.
While the Packers have thus far devoted their 2021 cap resources to retaining key free agents from last year’s 13-3 squad, general manager Brian Gutekunst has also indicated he would be willing to go out and sign an impact player in free agency if the right one emerged at the right price. Could Patterson be that player, though?
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Could Patterson be Packers’ Missing Piece?
The prospect of Patterson signing with the Packers is a complicated one. On the surface, the 30-year-old return specialist is coming off consecutive seasons as a first-team All-Pro selection and would make for a dynamic addition to a position of need for the Packers. And yet, Patterson could be looking to turn his successful years with the Bears into a sizable payday that the Packers might not be able to offer.
The last contract Patterson signed was worth $10 million over two years, and that came with a cap hit of $5.75 million during the 2020 season. Even if the Packers were only looking to get one season out of him as they attempt to run it back in 2021, the number may be too large for a role that can be filled for less money.
At the same time, the versatility counts when it comes to LaFleur. The Packers may value Patterson more because of how many different roles he can fill. He could operate as a third-string rushing option behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, specializing in jet sweeps. He could also take some attention off their other receiving options as another pass-catcher, helping the position group safeguard against injuries.
Tyler Ervin Visiting the Bills
The Packers may not be interested in exploring Patterson as a possible free-agent fit, but all signs point to them needing a new return specialist for 2021.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Buffalo Bills hosted the Packers’ previous return man, unrestricted free agent Tyler Ervin, for a visit on Friday afternoon. Ervin signed with Green Bay midway through the 2019 season and helped supply a boost to their return game, but injuries marred his second year with the team and limited him to just eight games in 2020.
The Bills are hosting RB/return specialist Tyler Ervin on a free agent visit. After Andre Roberts departed in free agency, Ervin could help fill his role. Ervin was productive for the Packers over the past season and a half.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 26, 2021
While Ervin taking a visit doesn’t necessarily mean he will sign with Buffalo, it does suggest the Packers have given him an indication he won’t be returning to Green Bay next season. The same seems likely for veteran Tavon Austin, who failed to impress as a late-November addition to the Packers’ roster and remains an unrestricted free agent.
If neither return, the Packers will have to resolve the specialist role in some way. Perhaps new special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton believes a member of their current roster — Wide receiver Malik Taylor? Cornerback Josh Jackson — can get the job done without outside additions. They could also get an influx of potential returners from the 2021 NFL draft, in which the Packers have 10 picks.
Or maybe, just maybe, they will decide to give Patterson a call.
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