It was a free-agent signing that seemed almost destined to happen, even though many believe it shouldn’t have and the free agent in question made a plea 24 hours earlier for his old team to bring him back.
There was no immediate word as to the amount of the contract on the two-year deal.
Drafted with the 29th pick of the first round of the 2013 draft, Patterson’s entrance to the Vikings was eventful. Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman was talking about the two players they had drafted with the 23rd and 25th picks – Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes – when one of his assistants waved him off the podium.
Spielman had figured the day was over, but had left instructions for his staff to keep working the phones, offering a second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick to get back into the first round.
New England bit, Spielman made his way back into the war room and called in the deal. Patterson was a Viking.
His career in Minnesota saw him make two Pro Bowls in four years, but both were as a return specialist, not a first-round wide receiver. In four seasons, he led the NFL in kickoff return average three times. He could alter the course of a game with one return, which either started a half or came after the opponent scored and the Vikings were able to steal momentum away immediately.
That chapter of Vikings history is gone.
The conundrum facing the Vikings and the other 31 teams in free agency was whether Patterson was going to be paid to be a return man or to be a legitimate passing threat in the offense.
As a rookie, Patterson seemed an ideal highlight-maker in the bigger mold of Percy Harvin. He scored nine touchdowns as a rookie – four as a receiver, two as a rusher and two as a return man. He caught 45 passes for 469 yards and ran 12 times for 158 yards.
In 2014, Norv Turner arrived and Patterson’s role began to diminish. His field time started being reduced at midseason and his numbers suffered (33-384-1 receiving and 10-117-1 rushing).
In 2015, he was a complete offensive afterthought. After being targeted 144 times in his first two seasons, he was targeted just twice all season, catching two passes for 10 yards.
When it came time to give out the fifth-year option on the Class of 2013 first-rounders, the Vikings gave it to Floyd and Rhodes and didn’t to Patterson, setting in motion the events that culminated Monday.
Patterson was under the spotlight all season, but it was when Norv Turner abruptly resigned that new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur decided to reincorporate Patterson into the offense. He set a career high with 52 receptions and was as dangerous as ever on kick returns, winning his third return title in the process.
Patterson’s name was in that mix of players that Vikings fans thought the organization should pay to keep – Captain Munnerlyn, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison, Audie Cole and even Adrian Peterson. The combination of Patterson, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright could all carve specific roles in the Shurmur pass offense that could give the Vikings a five-deep receivers room that could be dangerous.
Like other Vikings vets allowed to leave in a record-setting exodus that didn’t involve a coaching/front office shakeup, Patterson is just the latest in a growing number of Vikings making a move to a new city with a new future.
Considering that the Raiders already have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, it seems clear he wasn’t being paid or asked to be a No. 1 receiver on the deal he accepted.