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Steelers Make Four FA Signings Official

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Steelers Falcons Cordarrelle Patterson

In addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers announcing that they’ve signed defensive lineman Dean Lowry to a two-year contract, they also officially inked deals with wide receiver/running back Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver Quez Watkins and quarterback Kyle Allen.

Patterson signed a two-year contract, while Watkins and Allen inked one-year deals. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported last week that Patterson’s two-year deal is worth $6 million.

Patterson is one of the best, if not the best, kickoff returners of all-time. He has had nine such kickoff returns throughout his career, and he averages 29.3 yards per kickoff return. That is likely where the onus of this move is coming from, as Patterson should fill that role immediately. Mike Tomlin noted there would be a change in body type with the new kickoff concept, but not just that, returners themselves had to be more than just pure speed, but have excellent vision. Patterson checks that box.

“Body types might change. How’s it going to affect field positioning and thus scoring. Roster building, you know, the importance of the return,” Tomlin said. “It’s the ramifications, the seeing around corners, the unintended consequences.”

As for what Patterson does on offense, he worked with new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith in Atlanta, so that connection is obvious. But he has been a wide receiver and running back in the past. Patterson should be the third running back behind Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris while adding a gadget play element.

He only had 50 rushes for 181 yards a year ago, though the season before that, Patterson added 695 rushing yards on 144 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Regardless, he is a versatile weapon that the team can work into their gameplan, and will certainly allow for some ingenuity with the new kickoff rules in place.

There is one trait that Watkins has in spades, and that is elite speed and explosiveness. Coming out of Southern Mississippi, Watkins ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and had a 36 1/2-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, measuring in at 6-foot, 185 pounds. Over his tenure in Philadelphia, Watkins developed as a big play threat.

This past season, he played in nine games and caught 15 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. Watkins had his best season in 2021, racking up 647 yards and a touchdown on 43 receptions. He followed that up the next season with 33 catches for 354 yards and a touchdown. He was limited in 2023 by a hamstring injury.

Watkins fits into the fold as a slot receiver more than anything. Over his career, that is where he has played the most snaps, though he is not explicitly locked into being a slot-only player. However, in Arthur Smith’s scheme, it seems likely that Watkins will be someone who stretches the field and will be on the receiving end of some of Russell Wilson’s moonballs down the field.

Watkins also brings some kick return ability, having returned 14 kicks in his career, though he only notched one in 2023. This likely signals another draft pick coming early at wide receiver. It is even possible that if someone like Josh Reynolds or Tyler Boyd were to go at the right price, the team would still end up signing them. Watkins is another depth piece, coming in as someone who can be a serious threat and offer some special teams versatility on top of that.

Allen, 28, will be entering his seventh season in the NFL. He was most recently the top backup to Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills, playing in seven games for the Bills in 2023 without recording a pass.

His last game action came in 2022, when he played in two games for the Houston Texans. He completed 46 of 78 passes (59%) for 416 yards (5.3 yards per attempt), two touchdowns, four interceptions and a 60.6 passer rating.

Originally an undrafted free agent of the Carolina Panthers out of Houston in 2018, Allen played two seasons in Carolina, including one a regular starter in 2019. That season, he stared 12 games, throwing for 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and an 80.8 passer rating. Playing behind a porous offensive line, he was sacked 46 times that season and led the NFL in sack yardage lost.

Allen was traded to the Washington Football Team for a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 and spent two seasons as a backup in D.C., playing in four games in 2020 and none in 2021.

With the Steelers, Allen will likely be the team’s third quarterback behind Russell Wilson and Justin Fields and was one of the top remaining free agents on the open market at the position.

 

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