Several intriguing free-agent running backs decided their fates on Monday and Tuesday. James Conner re-signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and his now-former running mate Chase Edmonds signed a two-year contract with the Miami Dolphins. In what qualifies as an extremely shrewd addition, the Buffalo Bills added pass-catching back J.D. McKissic, and the New England Patriots renewed their relationship with former Super Bowl-winning hero James White. These deals have shaken up and revamped the running back market.
Franchises that remain on the prowl for improvements at the running back position should be extremely interested in Cordarrelle Patterson. The former Tennessee Volunteer experienced a career-best season while absolutely flourishing under the tutelage and watchful eye of the brilliant offensive-minded Arthur Smith. Patterson recorded career-highs in rushing yards (618), rushing touchdowns (six), receptions (52), receiving yards (548), receiving touchdowns (five), and total touchdowns (11) scored while lining up all over Atlanta’s formation and impacting the game both as a ball-carrier and pass-catcher.
The Falcons are dealing with some salary-cap-related issues and have already waved goodbye to a pair of key contributors in Foye Oluokun and Russell Gage. General manager Terry Fontenot is reportedly attempting to convince disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to join the Falcons, and the two parties allegedly share mutual interest.
Atlanta’s process may lead them to lose the ever-valuable Patterson. We’ve identified three free-agent fits for Patterson.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs remain in Las Vegas for now but their presences shouldn’t stop the Raiders from potentially pursuing Patterson’s services. New head coach Josh McDaniels is an excellent play-caller that consistently managed three or more running backs in New England’s ever-crowded backfield. Few coaches are better suited to manage such rotations than McDaniels.
Should Patterson depart the Falcons, he’d be wise to land under the guidance of an offensive-minded coach that would understand how to best utilize his diverse abilities. Smith is a big reason why Patterson finally broke out of his shell in 2021, and Patterson must consider this when potentially choosing his next destination.
The Raiders are currently the forgotten team in the AFC West despite qualifying for the postseason a year ago. The Broncos captured the headlines by trading for Russell Wilson, and the Chargers have been lauded for their aggressive intentions that acquired J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Khalil Mack in the last week alone. The Chiefs still possess Patrick Mahomes and are the team to beat in the AFC West. McDaniels needs more offensive weapons at his disposal if he’s to do battle with the three other competing teams in the division.
The Seahawks are currently the betting favorites to land Patterson and it’s easy to understand why on the surface. Seattle’s new-look offensive identity hangs in the balance in the wake of the Wilson trade. General manager John Schneider must acquire an appropriate signal-caller, as Drew Look is ill-fitted to serve as Seattle’s starting quarterback going forward. Schneider is now equipped with plenty of immediate and future draft capital, but acquiring a sound do-it-all veteran such as Patterson would help lead to a smoother transition in a post-Wilson world. Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron earned his play-calling stripes under a similar coaching tree to what Patterson played under in Atlanta, so the scheme fit here is rather straightforward.
Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny is an unrestricted free agent and may explore more lucrative opportunities elsewhere after experiencing a frustrating four-year run with Seattle. Chris Carson remains in Seattle’s backfield, but the Seahawks have always preferred to pair Carson with a back that could relieve him in obvious passing situations. Patterson can certainly play that type of role if necessary. The Seahawks possess a plethora of cap space ($41.9 million, via Spotrac) and can afford to pursue Patterson should they identify him as a target.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Patriots have experienced a bit of a confusing week thus far. They allowed superstar cornerback Jackson to depart without much of a fight and later traded starting guard Shaq Mason to the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fifth-round selection. Starting right tackle Trent Brown remains a free agent and New England clearly hasn’t prioritized regaining his signature. New England seems to be clearing cap space for something, and Patterson could be a target.
This offseason should be all about surrounding rookie quarterback Mac Jones with more talent at the playmaking positions. Jones experienced a solid debutant campaign all things considered, but Bill Belichick and his trusted confidants would be wise to upgrade the environment in front and around him. The Patriots have failed to achieve that so far, but the offseason remains in its infancy and plenty of moves are on the table to be made.
Patterson possesses the type of skill set the Patriots desperately need. He’s the type of talent that makes life easy on a quarterback, particularly a young signal-caller that is still accumulating experience while attempting to achieve desired consistency. Losing long-time play-caller and offensive coordinator McDaniels to the Raiders presents a new challenge in itself, and New England must make life easier on Jones going forward. Reuniting with Patterson would do just that.