If you are any sort of Patriots fan, you have to be pleased with the effort of RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, “the Law Firm,” at least compared to our previous featured RB Laurence Maroney. When you compare the stats of the two players, Maroney has more yards than the Law Firm in most of his seasons with the Patriots, and he even has five more first downs. These stats, however, are not a good reflection of the player. The Law Firm fights for every yard he gets and has no problem powering through opponents just for that extra yard or two. Every time I see him carry the ball from the backfield and power through the line for a first down I think, “Maroney wouldn’t have done that.” The Law Firm has 29 touchdowns in his career with the Pats compared to Maroney’s 21, which doesn’t seem like a big difference, but over the years the Law Firm has kept his numbers consistently high even when competing with other RBs Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley.
The confidence the Patriots have in the red-zone, thanks to the laser arm of Tom Brady and the power and determination of Green-Ellis to reach the posts, is invaluable. I haven’t seen this confidence shared between the positions of QB and RB like this since the days of Corey Dillon. This confidence is aided by the fact that Green-Ellis hasn’t fumbled the ball in his career with the Patriots. Ever. So even if he doesn’t gain as many yards as the team would like, the value of his not causing turn-overs and keeping the ball in the hands of Brady is immense. Giving up Green-Ellis would mean the Patriots RB core would consist of Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen. Woodhead doesn’t have the strength to be the featured back, and Vereen barely played in 2011, which would make Ridley the likely star unless a more experienced RB was acquired in the off-season. How many Patriots fans are comfortable with Ridley being the face of the ground-game? Don’t get me wrong, Ridley looks to be a promising RB eventually. EVENTUALLY. But no way is he ready to shoulder the burden of giving Brady that wiggle room he needs so he doesn’t feel the pressure to complete every pass.
The asking price for unrestricted free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis will likely be more than the Patriots are willing to spend, given the fact that they just drafted two RBs (Ridley and Vereen) last year. Green-Ellis is scheduled to visit the Bengals and could replace Cedric Benson. In the eyes of the Bengals, the Law Firm should be the anti-Benson, with Benson fumbling the ball 19 times in his career. Benson also only has 30 TDs in his seven-year NFL career, only one more than Green-Ellis in almost twice the amount of time.
If the likely scenario happens that the Patriots pass on re-signing Green-Ellis, what free agent RBs would be worth looking into? Michael Bush, backup to McFadden in Oakland would be a great addition, but he will likely come with a hefty asking price in the Patriots’ eyes. Mike Tolbert would be an interesting addition because he is very Woodhead-esque in receiving and elusiveness but with the added power to steamroller DBs. Other notable options include Ryan Grant from the Packers, Tim Hightower from the Redskins, and Maurice Morris from the Lions. The level of interest from the Patriots will be determined by asking price, but don’t expect to know much about their interests thanks to their usually tight-lipped organization.