The New England Patriots were right to let running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis go to the Cincinnati Bengals via free agency. That’s no knock on the running back known as “The Law Firm” for his extended last name, but the Bengals were ready to commit to him as the featured running back in a system that relies heavily on the run and where the defense is currently in good shape.
With the Patriots’ offense built around Tom Brady and big needs on the defensive side of the ball, it makes little sense to make a major financial commitment to any running back. Furthermore, it’s depth that characterizes the Patriot backfield, with Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk and perhaps young Stevan Ridley all being involved in the offense.
Acknowledging that letting Green-Ellis walk was the right thing to do doesn’t mean replacing him will be easy. He was a physical runner inside, easily the best of the current group at picking up tough yards and the Patriots now need to find a replacement.
That won’t be easy, and given the teams’ other needs it clearly isn’t something that should be addressed in the first round of the NFL draft. But if you scroll down the list of running backs for someone who might be available in the third, or even the fourth round, the one that catches my eye is Temple’s Bernard Pierce.
Pierce wouldn’t be the punishing running back that Green-Ellis could be, but the Owl back is praised by scouts for having good field vision, running well within the tackles and finishing off plays. He might not be an exact replica of The Law Firm, but he’s someone that can fill a need.
Ultimately though, if it’s not Pierce, it’ll be somebody else. Green-Ellis gave New England fans credible work and deserves appreciation. But he’s a far cry from irreplaceable.