Originally posted on Patriots Extra  |  Last updated 3/22/12

Two unheralded, but important players from the 2011 season officially left the Patriots for greener pastures and big checks on Wednesday.

Defensive end Mark Anderson jumped ship and joined Mario Williams and the Bills to form potentially the best defensive line in the league.

And when you look at his contract, you see why. The six-year veteran inked a fat four-year, $27.5 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. That’s a number New England no intention of meeting considering Anderson didn’t even play 50 percent of the snaps last season.

Although he was a good fit as a hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end, Anderson’s track record indicates he’s no more than a very good situational player. The Bills paid him starter’s money.

Anderson was one of many low-risk, high-reward signings the Pats made for 2011, and the former Chicago Bear resurrected his career and his wallet with a 10-sack season, racking up 2.5 more in the playoffs. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has struggled as a full-time player, but should still put up good numbers in Buffalo considering he’s playing on an elite defensive line. The Bills boast a formidable defensive tackle duo of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus and recently handed Mario Williams the biggest contract for a defensive player in league history.

While Anderson was certainly a solid player, fans will probably hurt more over the loss of steady running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The 27-year-old former undrafted free agent signed a three-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals after racking up 29 touchdowns in 53 games as a Patriot.

The Law Firm lacks a great burst and doesn’t contribute much in the passing game, but he’s lauded for his excellent ball security (zero career fumbles), vision and toughness. However, after the Patriots drafted Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last year, it would have been tough to envision Green-Ellis returning.

His reliability will be missed, but I think it’s time for the youngsters to shoulder the load, and their athleticism, speed and fresh legs should help bolster an average running game.

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