In a league where big games are ultimately decided by which team makes more mistakes, a guy like BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a true asset to have on your roster.
The value of Green-Ellis is in his ability to protect the football. One could argue that's the most important virtue a player can have in this league. So, in that sense, his value is sky-high.
Bottom line: The ball is safe when it's in Green-Ellis' hands. That's what he does for you.
What he doesn't do, however, is change the tempo of the game or dominate the field. In other words, Green-Ellis isn't going to take matters into his own hands and swing the fate of the game towards New England's side. He isn't a game-changer.
Green-Ellis is one of many vital chess pieces to an offense that works on many different levels. The Patriots don't rely on Green-Ellis to win games, nor do they rely on Wes Welker. They don't even truly rely on Rob Gronkowski, who's the closest thing the Patriots have to a game-changer.
The Patriots rely on all of their pieces to make the machine function. This both helps and hurts Green-Ellis, depending upon how he looks at it.
On one hand, he's an essential element to the Patriots' ability to move the ball. On the other hand, if he's looking for more money elsewhere, his communal role in the tapestry of New England's offense may not distinguish him to the point where he could realistically command big dollar signs.
Nevertheless, a reliable running back who doesn't fumble is extremely difficult to find. That may be enough of a reason for another team to pounce on Green-Ellis.
In short, Green-Ellis' future in New England remains ambiguous.
In my mind, bringing Green-Ellis back is a no-brainer. However, if another team makes an enticing offer, I just don't see the Patriots going to the mattresses to keep him. It depends upon the mentality of the Patriots heading into 2012, and whether or not they're looking to switch their game plan and hunt for a game-changer on the free agency market.
As is always the case for fans, you hope your guys like playing for your team and you hope they want to stick around. Green-Ellis seems to enjoy his role on the Patriots. It's the financial element that makes this situation a little murky.
It remains to be seen how much money Green-Ellis is really looking for. It also remains to be seen how badly another team desires his services.
Green-Ellis isn't a high flight risk, but there is a potential for that risk to increase in the coming weeks. I give him a 50-50 shot at returning to the Patriots next season.