Much like last offseason, the Falcons aren’t going to be spending big money in free agency in 2022. Atlanta’s salary cap situation dictates Terry Fontenot chasing bargains.
The first-time general manager acquired free agents strictly on one-year, team-friendly deals last offseason — Mike Davis being the only multi-year deal. When he was hired, Fontenot was highly touted for his ability in New Orleans to find value in free agency.
Though the 2021 free-agent class was underwhelming overall, Fontenot hit on a couple of players. Fabian Moreau signed a one-year, $1.127 million deal, which given his production, was a great addition. Some fans just noticed the penalties he committed, but considering his price tag, Moreau played well for the Falcons. I wouldn’t even be against bringing him back on a similar deal; if the defense as a unit improves, Moreau’s play will also take steps forward.
The gem of last year’s free-agent class has to be Cordarrelle Patterson, though. Fontenot inked Patterson to a one-year, $3 million deal that he considerably outperformed. He led the team in rushing (618 yards) and total touchdowns (11) while racking up the third-most receiving yards (548). The Falcons’ investment in Patteson can only be seen as a success for the front office, coaching staff, and Patterson himself.
Patterson has made it abundantly clear that he’d like to retire with the Falcons, but this league is a business, and Fontenot will absolutely not overpay for his services. Over The Cap has Patterson valued at $8.8 million, which will undoubtedly price him out of Atlanta. Because of his age and significant role in the Falcons offense, it is almost a guarantee that he regresses in 2022.
The Falcons will more than likely look to replace his production through the draft or another bargain free agent. The Chiefs’ Jerick McKinnon can be that value signing of 2022 that Patterson was in 2021.
McKinnon totaled 150 rushing yards, 165 receiving yards, and a touchdown in three of Kansas City’s playoff games. He offers a similar versatile skillset as Patterson and will cost significantly less than the former All-Pro return man.
McKinnon tore his ACL in 2018 then his LCL in 2019, so the signing wouldn’t come without risk. The former 2014 third-round pick was productive for the Vikings, then landed with the 49ers in 2018. Though he missed two seasons following that, McKinnon showcased his versatility with the Niners in 2020, even if it was a small sample size — just 81 carries.
McKinnon impressed with the Chiefs this year, but his production wasn’t that of Patterson, who will command a more lucrative deal. He can assume the same multi-purpose role that Arthur Smith, Dave Ragone, and Charles London created for Patterson. McKinnon showcased that he’s still a dangerous threat out of the backfield in the postseason. During the 2021 regular season, the former Georgia Southern Eagle averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per catch. The Falcons could do much worse than McKinnon in replacing Patterson’s role in the offense.
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