Entering the 2021 NFL season, the Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson seemingly had a defined role: elite kick returner with inconsistent contributions as both a runner and receiver. That’s the role that netted Patterson a one-year, $3 million contract from Atlanta in mid-April.
Nobody could’ve predicted what ensued. With the Falcons, Cordarrelle Patterson had a career year, rushing for 618 yards and six touchdowns on 153 carries, averaging a respectable four yards per carry, and catching 52 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns.
For much of the season, he was Atlanta’s most consistently productive offensive weapon. However, with Patterson’s significant uptick in production, retaining him in free agency became significantly less likely. Not only did Patterson produce more, but Deebo Samuel’s rise to prominence has brought the “wide back” role to life. Patterson is a proven commodity in that role and is one of only a handful of players currently in the league who can successfully execute the role.
Or at least, many expected the Falcons to struggle retaining Patterson. After polling multiple agents and an additional source, the picture has become clearer. Let’s get into whether or not Cordarrelle Patterson ultimately returns to the Falcons.
Falcons Cap Situation
Following Calvin Ridley’s suspension, Atlanta is now a little bit over $3 million above the cap, as Ridley’s contract has been deferred to 2023, saving the team north of $11 million. There are still several ways for general manager Terry Fontenot and company to open up cap space.
For starters, the team can cut veterans Tyeler Davison and Mike Davis, saving $6 million in the process. Restructuring Matt Ryan and extending Grady Jarrett would open an additional $23 million, though that route is rather uncertain.
Regardless, the Falcons are not expected to be major players early on in free agency. Much like last season, Fontenot and his team are likely to go value-shopping after the first wave concludes. As a result, many have wondered whether or not the team will have enough money to retain Cordarrelle Patterson.
Predicting Patterson’s Contract With the Falcons
The big question on many people’s minds regarding the Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson and his contract isn’t how long, it’s how much. While the exact price is still up for grabs, Patterson is likely to receive a contract in the $5-6.5 million range; one agent mentioned $4 million as the absolute floor.
One source does not expect Patterson to have many suitors above $5.5 million annually. An agent said he “get(s) the sense Atlanta does not even know what type of number to put on him.” Conversely, a source mentioned the Falcons will offer up to $6 million, but are hesitant to give more. So, the number is a bit unclear, but it appears that the length is not.
The consensus is that Patterson will once again be on a rather short deal. An agent predicted two years, citing Patterson’s age (31 in March) and many teams’ unwillingness to pay RB’s big money. The most a source predicted is three years, but the one-to-two range seems to be the sweet spot.
Should it go to three years, the source predicted Patterson will receive somewhere in the $6-$6.75 million guaranteed range over the course of the contract. While age will be a factor, it’s important to remember that Patterson has lots of tread left on his tires. Still, the feel is Patterson gets around $10-$12 million over two years.
Patterson’s Free Agent Market
With Patterson’s outstanding season and the “wide back” becoming more popular, many believed Patterson would have no shortage of options. However, as stated above, it’s believed that the higher range of Patterson’s deal is unlikely to bring many suitors.
With Patterson not breaking out until year nine in the NFL, other teams may lack the confidence required to give out a big number. It is possible that Patterson gets a steeper deal from a team desperate for versatility in the backfield, but it’s much more likely the final number is in the $5-$6 million range.
Does Patterson Return?
Ultimately, none of the sources felt particularly confident regarding Patterson’s deal or destination — he’s viewed as a tricky assessment. However, when factoring in that the Falcons seem willing to throw a decent price at its star wide back, and Patterson’s market isn’t expected to be as strong as initially believed, it does seem like there’s a fair chance he’s back in Atlanta.
Furthermore, Patterson has made his interest in staying in Atlanta very clear — he loves Atlanta, and Atlanta loves him. Price was always the issue; but after talking to league sources, it’s not as unlikely as once believed that Patterson will be back.