The Raiders did a lot of things very well in 2016, but returning kickoffs wasn’t one of them.
This past season, the Raiders averaged 20.5 yards per kick return, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. Oakland’s longest return was 50 yards by rookie Jalen Richard. But with one signing Monday night, the Raiders jumped to the top of the league.
The Raiders and free-agent wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson agreed to a reported two-year deal that should instantly upgrade the Raiders’ battle for field position in 2017.
For the third time in his four pro seasons, Patterson led the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging 31.7 yards per attempt. With Patterson, the Vikings averaged a league-best 27.3 yards per kick return in 2016.
Wrote Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, of the signing (which he reports can be voided to a one-year deal after this season): “This is what Raiders fans have been waiting for since free agency began on Thursday – a high-profile signing to inject some excitement into not only the fan base but also the offense and special teams. Or did you miss quarterback Derek Carr’s inclusive tweet of 'Welcome to Raider Nation, bro. Now let’s work,' immediately after the signing?”
Plus, Patterson is a threat to score every time he fields a kickoff. He has five returns for touchdowns in four NFL seasons. Gutierrez noted the Raiders haven’t scored on a kickoff return since 2011, when Jacoby Ford did it.
Patterson also had his best season as a receiver in 2016 with a career-high 52 catches for 453 yards and two TDs.
On Monday, Patterson retweeted an NFL.com video of himself returning a kick for a touchdown vs. the Raiders in 2015 that included the message: “He. Can. Fly. @Raiders fans … meet your new return man, @ceeflashpee84!” Patterson, obviously excited by his move, also retweeted a Raiders tweet of his photo signing his new deal.
Conor Orr of NFL.com wrote Tuesday morning that the prospect of Patterson “being a jack of all trades with Oakland’s high-flying offense is enticing.” Now it will be up to head coach Jack Del Rio and his staff to integrate Patterson’s playmaking ability into an offense that already has impact receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.