The Patriots and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis have gone their separate ways.
The free-agent tailback, who carried most of the team’s workload out of the backfield over the past two seasons, is being introduced as the newest member of the Bengals Thursday.
The Patriots and Green-Ellis worked on contract negotiations at the start of free agency, but the two sides were unable to come to an agreement and the 27-year-old running back decided to sign with Cincinnati, where he is expected to be the featured back.
Some were surprised the Patriots didn’t try harder to bring back Green-Ellis, who has never fumbled in his NFL career, since the former undrafted free agent made a splash in New England over his three years there, including a 1,000-plus-yard season in 2010.
But the philosophy of New England head coach Bill Belichick has not been built around a star running back for quite some time. Since trading for running back Corey Dillon in 2003 (ironically from the Bengals), and with the exception of Laurence Maroney, the Patriots have used a stable of quiet up-and-comers and aging veterans to equip their backfield. Maroney is probably a big reason for that strategy, too.
The Patriots used a first-round draft pick to draft Maroney out of Minnesota before the 2006 season but they never got first-round-draft-pick production out of him. The emergence of Green-Ellis was also largely in part to this.
The Patriots have also not won a Super Bowl since having a big-name, featured back like they had in Dillon and won the title in 2004.
Green-Ellis, who made just less than $2 million last year with the Patriots, is expected to make an estimated $3 million per season with the Bengals. He rushed for 667 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with the Pats.
The Patriots backfield is currently made up of Danny Woodhead and two second-year backs in Shane Vareen and Stevan Ridley.
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