CHICAGO — Cordarrelle Patterson has pinned to the top of his Twitter page a video of himself sprinting and juking through Bears tacklers on a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. That score for the Patriots on Oct. 21 ended up sparking a come-from-behind 38-31 victory that ultimately stood between the Bears and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Perhaps, then, it's no surprise the Bears sought to improve their ineffective kickoff return unit late Tuesday by agreeing with Patterson on a two-year free-agent contract worth $10 million. ESPN reported the deal, which can't be finalized until the new league year begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Last season, the Bears ranked last in the NFL in average starting field position following a kickoff _ the 23.4-yard line. The Patriots, with Patterson handling 23 of their 28 kickoff returns, were fifth-best, starting on average at the 26.3.
Three days before that Oct. 21 game, Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor offered this scouting report of Patterson: "He's dangerous. You need to get in front of this guy. That's a locomotive coming downhill."
There's also room for Patterson on offense, where the Bears want to get faster and more effectively spread the field.
Although he never evolved into a dominant receiver after the Vikings drafted him 29th overall in 2013, he contributed to the Patriots Super Bowl championship as a gadget-type player, one Bears coach Matt Nagy could use creatively.
He set career highs in rushes (42) and rushing yards (228) in his only year with the Patriots, while also catching 21 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
It amounts to a logical, if not seismic, addition for a Bears team that continued to keep a relatively low free-agency profile during the open negotiating period.
ESPN reported Tuesday morning the Bears cleared $11 million in salary cap space by restructuring Khalil Mack's contract. News of the maneuver naturally created a sense of anticipation among the fan base that a headline-grabbing move was imminent.
Specifically, the status of Steelers free agent running back Le'Veon Bell was a fixation of league observers nationwide and in Chicago, where the potential of his explosive talent and versatility in the Bears backfield had some fans salivating, regardless of cost and personal baggage.
Instead, the sun set Tuesday with the Bears having made modest-but-targeted additions to the offense in running back Mike Davis and Patterson. Bell's next team, meanwhile, became the New York Jets early Wednesday morning.
Public curiosity about a big move by the Bears might have eroded with news of the Patterson signing. But their apparent willingness to borrow salary cap space from future years and general manager Ryan Pace's history of bold moves keep Chicago's collective wonder alive.