The Falcons will not be taking their vacant returner gig lightly this offseason, apparently.
The Falcons have sort of papered over their returner gigs in recent years, trying out a variety of options but never letting on a long-term one. It appears the days of doing so are over, as they’re reportedly on the cusp of signing four-time All-Pro Cordarrelle Patterson to a deal.
Veteran NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo tweeted a short time ago that Patterson is visiting the Falcons now and a contract is expected. New special teams coordinator Marquice Williams has to be doing a backflip right about now.
Veteran WR/returner Cordarrelle Patterson is visiting the #Falcons, sources say. The expectation is the sides will have a deal soon. So some sweet SkyCam angles coming your way in Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/QDfg4zANqj
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 14, 2021
Patterson is simply one of the most dynamic kick returners in NFL history. The Falcons will still be mulling their options for punt returner given that Patterson has just one return there in his long career, but their kick return game will be improved by leaps and bounds with the addition of Patterson. Just a year ago, he turned 35 returns into 1,017 yards, for an average of 29.1 yards per return and a touchdown that went 104 yards. He has been among the league leaders in kick return yardage and average multiple times in his career, has earned four All-Pro nods for his work in that role, and has eight career return touchdowns, including one in each of the past three seasons. He’s simply a lethal option there and doesn’t appear to be slowing down heading into his age 30 season, and chances are at least decent he’ll break his tie with two other players for the most career kick return touchdowns ever.
In addition, he brings some value to the table as a depth option at receiver and running back, given his speed and agility, and will likely slot in fourth or fifth on the receiver depth chart and as an occasional option for carries with the running back group. New offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and quarterbacks coach Charles London saw him achieve some success in those roles in Chicago, and even on a relatively loaded Falcons offense, he can probably carve out 50-75 touches this year.
The punt returner role will still be open, with second-year wide receiver Chris Rowland, second-year cornerback Tyler Hall, and others likely to be in the mix for that. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons add anyone on offense on the second or third day who might compete for the punt returner job, as well.
In short, this seems like a stellar signing for the Falcons, who will have a more dynamic return game than they have in a while and add yet another useful piece on offense. We’re looking forward to seeing this one made official.