Well, this is no fun.
Just an hour after losing their top remaining free agent Mark Anderson to the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have lost their second highest profile free agent, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Green-Ellis has agreed to a three year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Like the Anderson situation, both sides were very interested in making a deal happen. In fact, it was reported all along that Green-Ellis would give the Patriots the right to match any contract offer he got with other teams. So, once again, it appears that the Patriots' decision not to re-sign Green-Ellis came down to financials.
So where do the Patriots go from here?
The team doesn't exactly have a need at running back. Stevan Ridley, selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of LSU, probably becomes the team's top back from this point forward. He is talented, and showed the potential to be the lead guy last year. The team also returns the speedy Danny Woodhead, who will likely act as a change of pace back for Ridley, and should maintain 3rd down duties. 2011 2nd round draft choice, Shane Vereen, is now also a top candidate to take over some snaps at running back. He played mostly in mop-up duty last year, but showed some flashes, and will certainly be given a long look this offseason.
Green-Ellis' decision to sign with the Bengals ends a solid, but certainly not spectacular career with the Patriots. The "Law Firm" was a reliable player, tough runner, hard worker, mistake free, and a great locker room guy. Teams need players like Green-Ellis, and losing him certainly will have a negative impact on the squad. While the Patriots could look to bring in a new face to replace him, the team will likely look for one of the young guys to step up into a bigger role.