Bears Will Look Around for Return Help

Losing Cordarrelle Patterson leaves the Bears in need of a kick returner but it's unlikely they'll find anyone with similar speed and explosiveness

This time the Twitter statement about Cordarrelle Patterson wasn't an April Fool's joke or a comment by him telling GM Ryan Pace who to sign in free agency.

It was a report by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network that Patterson is expected to sign a contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

It's not an unexpected loss and results from the high cost of paying one of the highest-paid return men in the game. The Bears paid Patterson $10 million over two years, $5 million of it guaranteed, so they could be the fourth team to fail at harnessing his true potential on offense. They got one offensive TD and two kick return TDs in return.

The New England Patriots probably came closest to seeing his potential realized, with 42 rushing attempts and 21 receptions when they won the Super Bowl in 2018, but the contribution was still marginal.

The Bears got 64 rushing attempts from him last year as a backup running back at 3.6 yards a carry, and it's easy to imagine better production from Artavis Piece if they had given him the same number of carries.

Patterson wasn't going to get paid much in Chicago after the contribution and cap cost over two seasons so it will be interesting to see what Atlanta paid for him. 

He is a good guy, funny, and well liked by all the Bears. He'll be missed by everyone, from players, to fans to media He'll be missed especially by special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. Patterson provided a dual role as a punt coverage gunner besides being a return man.

Patterson is now 30 and he shows no sign of slowing as one of the game's premier return men. He averaged 29.5 and 29.1 yards in two Bears seasons, and had a kick return TD in each season. He helped the Bears finish seventh in average offensive starting position in the league, although they did little with this advantage.

The Bears will replace him with ... fill in the blank. Anthony Miller did it some in the past but he could be leaving in a trade, as well.

This is what the draft will be for, and what tryouts in training camp will be used to determine.

Most teams don't have the luxury of the second-leading kick returner of all time. Only Gale Sayers (30.6) has a higher average than Patterson's 29.8, and he had less than half the number of returns Patterson has had to make.

Patterson's next kick return for a TD gives him claim to sole possession of the NFL record with nine.

He's not the best return man of all time. That title belongs to Devin Hester because he could return both punts and kicks and turn them into TDs. He had 21 counting missed field goal returns and the Super Bowl. Patterson doesn't return punts and explained this to everyone last season when the Bears were searching for someone to replace Tarik Cohen following his torn ACL.

The Bears have a few players on the roster who have returned kicks at times in their career but these are players who will be challenged to make the final 53.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see them looking in the draft to find someone with this ability. It partially explains their interest in Western Michigan slot receiver D'Wayne Eskridge, who averaged 27.5 for 17 returns last year when he wasn't being a touchdown threat on offense. He was sixth in the country among returners with at least 15 attempts.

Another return man who could be of interest in the seventh round or as an undrafted free agent is Boise State slot cornerback Avery Williams. He averaged 28.1 yards per 19 returns last year.

Williams is also supposed to be a demon on kick coverage and punt coverage, which is always a plus. He also has blocked kicks and punts in the past.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven