We’re another week closer to the season, so here’s the low-down on another of the Jets’ free agency signings; veteran inside linebacker Bruce Carter. Like players we’ve looked at in this series in previous weeks, Carter is another addition to add depth to a position where the Jets have significant need.
Carter signed with the Jets in early April on a one year $840,000 contract with $250,000 guaranteed money. The departure of Demario Davis prompted the team to search for options to play alongside David Harris in the middle linebacker position. They also re-signed Erin Henderson, with whom Carter will compete for playing time.
A second round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of North Carolina, Carter spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. He was drafted coming off an ACL tear and played in ten games for the Cowboys in his rookie year. His draft profile described him as ‘highly explosive at the point of attack’ and possessing the ‘the fluidity to stick with backs and tight ends in man coverage.’ He was also described as an intelligent and disciplined player.
In his four years in Texas, Carter played 49 games, starting 32 and making on average over 70 combined tackles per season after his rookie year (with a high of 96 in 2013) . His pass coverage skills came to the fore in his most productive season (2014) where he made 5 interceptions, returning one for a touch down; the most of any linebacker that year. During his time in Dallas, Carter drew comparisons to Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks.
The Cowboys reportedly wanted to keep Carter when he hit the open market in 2015, but knew that others would be willing to pay more for his services than they could or would give up. They turned out to be right as Tampa Bay signed him to a four year $17million contract with the intention that he would be a starter. However, he failed to impress and was beaten out in training camp by rookie Kwon Alexander. The only three starts he had in 2015 came when Alexander was suspended by the league. His 47 combined tackles with the Bucs were his fewest since his 2011 rookie year with the Cowboys and he was released just one year into his contract (the only guaranteed year) after struggling to find his previous form.
Like several of the other lower level free agents signings, Carter has a large potential upside based on his early career in Dallas. He also fits well into the Jets’ system. His poor performance in 2015 really diminished his stock, hence the vast difference in price compared to the contract he signed in Florida last year. The one year agreement with the Jets could be seen as a ‘prove it’ contract for Carter if he hopes to snag a future longer term commitment. If he does indeed ‘prove it’ and shows he can return to his pre-Tampa Bay level, the Jets could get a decent value from this signing; adding much needed depth to the LB group with a player who has been seen as starting-caliber previously.
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