NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The Patriots suffered their first significant losses in free agency with the reports that Mark Anderson has agreed to a deal with the Buffalo Bills and BenJarvus Green-Ellis has agreed to terms with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Let’s start with Mark Anderson. The Patriots signed Mark Anderson to a one year deal last August for a little over 1 million dollars. Anderson was coming off four straight really underwhelming years with the Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans. As a rookie Anderson totaled 12 sacks and looked like one of the best young pass rushers in the league. However, he fell off dramatically in the following years. His sophomore season he totaled five sacks and was able to only produce 8.5 sacks during the next four seasons.
The Patriots took a chance on Anderson, with an attempt to revive his career. The deal ended up working out great for both parties, as Anderson revived his career and the Patriots found a consistent pass rusher. Anderson provided a very solid pass rush in sub packages and finished the regular season with 10.0 sacks. Once Andre Carter was lost for the season Anderson stepped into a full time role and played very well. Anderson’s final game with the Patriots, Super Bowl 46 might have been his best as he totaled 2.0 sacks and provided constant pass rush.
The Bills gave Anderson 4 years and 27 million dollars with 8 million guaranteed. Those numbers weren’t anywhere near where the Patriots were willing to go in my opinion. While Anderson had a great year, my feeling was the team placed a value on Anderson and stuck too it. When he was allowed to test the free agent market, the indications that he would leave the Patriots were clear. The Patriots have already signed Trevor Scott, to a similar deal as Anderson did last year. I expect more moves to address the pass rush in free agency and the draft.
Also, today it’s been announce that the Cincinnati Bengals have agreed to a three year deal with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. BJGE has been the Patriots lead back over the previous two seasons totaling 24 touchdowns in that time. BJGE’s best season came in 2010 when he rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. His playtime and numbers dropped last season to 667 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has provided the Patriots with a reliable RB, who has elite ball security and is very good in short and goal line situations. While the loss of BJGE stings, it’s not unexpected and the Patriots were prepared for it.
I have been vocal over the course of the season, that I believed BJGE would be allowed to leave in the off-season. Teams just simply do not draft running backs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds if they believe they have the future running back on their roster as the Patriots did in the 2011 draft. Green-Ellis was a durable and dependable back, however he had some limitations to his game. He was the type of running back who wasn’t very dynamic. He never lost yards, however he can only get what is blocked for him. The most troubling stat for me is that his longest run last season in 181 attempts was 18 yards. He simply does not have the break away speed of shiftiness you would like out of an every down back.
With BJGE gone the Patriots will turn to 3rd round pick Stevan Ridley, who played 14% of the snaps last year and 2nd round pick Shane Vereen to carry the load. The Patriots are very fond of both players and I expect both to be an upgrade at BJGE at some point in their career. I also believe the Patriots will bring in a veteran RB to compete with the young guys and push them in camp.
It’s never easy to lose productive players in free agency, however in this case the Patriots were prepared and like usually have a plan in place.