The Falcons traded Julio Jones and saw Calvin Ridley step away from football early this season, leaving a void at the skill positions in Arthur Smith‘s first year. While Kyle Pitts has delivered a 1,000-yard rookie season, the Falcons have relied on Cordarrelle Patterson extensively.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $3MM, Patterson supplanted Mike Davis as Atlanta’s top running back early this season. Entering Week 18, the perennial All-Pro kick returner has amassed a career-high (by far) 1,154 scrimmage yards and scored 11 touchdowns — seven more than any other Falcon this season.
Patterson is two-plus months from free agency and would stand to hit the market in an interesting position, as a soon-to-be 31-year-old running back without much ball-carrying mileage on his resume. The former first-round pick is interested in sticking with the Falcons.
“I love it here. Honestly, I want to be here the rest of my career, but that’s not on me,” Patterson said, via Josh Kendall of The Athletic (subscription required). “… I’ve been around — five teams, eight offensive coordinators. Being here, 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; why not finish my career here?”
The Vikings attempted to use Patterson as a wide receiver early in his career but gave up on that effort fairly soon. Patterson then became one of this era’s best kick returners, landing on four All-Pro teams. While the Patriots and Bears used the 220-pound returner as a running back sparsely, the Falcons have been the first team to fully commit to such a position move. They did not add a backup for Davis this offseason, and Patterson quickly became the team’s top option. The 149 carries he has logged are 85 more than any other season of his career.
Running backs face difficulties on the market annually, though the upcoming cap spike stands to help free agents at every position. Patterson hitting free agency would put him alongside the likes of Leonard Fournette, James Conner, Melvin Gordon, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny. Patterson’s profile differs considerably from this group, making him one of the more interesting skill-position free agents in memory.