All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson visiting Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons could be adding the game's best kick returner.

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday that Cordarrelle Patterson is visiting Atlanta, and a deal between the sides is expected soon.

While never finding a niche on offense during his eight-year career, Patterson remains the game's top kick returner, who can also fill in on the offensive side of the ball in spot duty.

Patterson earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro bids the past two years in Chicago, leading the league in kick return yardage each season. In 2020 alone, Patterson returned 35 kicks for 1,017 yards, with a 104-yard touchdown.

For his career, the 30-year-old Patterson has averaged 29.8 yards per kick return. Compare that with the Falcons averaging 20.5 yards per return last season. A difference of over nine yards per return can add up over the course of a season in what coaches often refer to as hidden yards that might not make highlights, but aid offenses by keeping them out of bad situations.

In 2020, Brandon Powell led the Falcons with 343 return yards on 17 attempts with a long of 29 (Patterson's career average). As a team, Atlanta generated 409 total return yards. Patterson had more than that in the first five games of the season. The Falcons haven't had a kick returner earn more than 700 yards since Andre Roberts in 2017.

While Patterson has scored a touchdown on a kick return each of the past three seasons and has eight in his career, the Falcons haven't had a kickoff returned for a TD since Eric Weems in 2010. Devin Hester's 2014 season represents the last time Atlanta had a Pro Bowl returner.

Outside of the hidden yardage Patterson adds on special teams, he's also proven he can be useful as a running back in a pinch. He might not be an every-down player, but defenses must account for his speed in space when he enters the game, allowing the offense to use him as a gadget player or decoy in certain situations.

Patterson's offensive workload under Matt Nagy wasn't what the coach envisioned when he signed the hybrid WR/RB. But there is no question that Patterson is a difference-maker on special teams who still terrifies opposing special teams coordinators when he touches the ball.

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