With BenJarvus Green-Ellis agreeing to a three-year deal with the Bengals, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Patriots lose a sure-handed power runner who excelled in the red zone.
Ridley flashed lead-back potential at times during the 2011 season, but also saw his playing time reduced late in the year because of ball-security concerns. Ridley is more dynamic than Green-Ellis, but with Green-Ellis, ball security was never an issue because he simply didn't fumble.
In addition to Ridley, the Patriots have the speedy Vereen (limited to 25 snaps, in part because of injuries, as a rookie) and "passing back" Danny Woodhead atop the depth chart.
The running back snaps broke down this way in 2011:
Green-Ellis -- 34 percent
Woodhead -- 33 percent
Ridley -- 14 percent
Kevin Faulk -- 6.5 percent
Vereen -- 1.9 percent
The Patriots didn't select Ridley and Vereen with high draft picks with the intention of having them in reduced roles.
Green-Ellis' departure highlights the importance of their development.