Finding solid value in free agency is an important goal for NFL teams. This is especially true because of the presence of a hard salary cap. It's crucial to seek out NFL players who can exceed their perceived value. Signing a player to a cheap contract and having him perform like a superstar can be a game changer for a franchise.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a player who qualifies for this description in the 2021 NFL season with the Atlanta Falcons. He was signed to serve as a dynamic role player in their offense, but he has far exceeded expectations. He is one of the most valued free agents who was signed this year.
Cordarrelle Patterson's breakout season
Cordarrelle Patterson is having the best season of his nine-year NFL career by far. He has already set new career highs in rushing yards, receiving yards, rushing touchdowns and receiving touchdowns. Those totals will only get larger with four games still remaining this year.
The Atlanta Falcons signed Cordarrelle Patterson as a free agent prior to the 2021 NFL season. It is a one-year deal worth just three million dollars. They fully unlocked the potential that four other previous teams were unable to. He is providing excellent value, but was he the best free agent signing this year?
The best valued NFL free agent signing this year
The only free agent signing in 2021 who is returning better value than Cordarrelle Patterson is running back James Conner of the Arizona Cardinals. James Conner, like Cordarrelle Patterson, signed a one-year contract, but his was even cheaper. His deal is worth just $1.75 million against the cap this season. It's a bargain for any player, let alone a top producing running back in the NFL.
James Conner enters Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season with 12 rushing touchdowns. That's the second most among all players, trailing only Jonathan Taylor, the likely Offensive Player of the Year. Conner also ranks in the top 20 in the NFL in rushing yards and in the top ten in carries. He has played in all of the Cardinals' games this season.
Conner has been a major contributor to the Cardinals' best record in the entire NFL. He shares running back duties with Chase Edmonds, but has filled in full time while his backfield partner recovers from injury. Conner has been one of the most surprising producers this season and is the best valued free agent signing of 2021.