Following up on the news that the Patriots have informed linebacker/defensive end Markell Carter he has been released, here are a few thoughts on the move:
1. Timing. The fact that Carter was cut at this juncture of this offseason could suggest that the team is preparing to make another move in the coming days. With Carter in tow, the Patriots were at a maximum capacity of 90 players on the active roster, and may have parted ways with the second-year player in order to create space for a pending addition.
2. Crowded front seven: As was mentioned by Mike Rodak last month, the Patriots' roster had more front seven players than any other in the NFL (at the time, at least), with 27. Inevitably, a number of players were going to have be let go by the team, and Carter is the first chip to fall.
3. Personnel mismatch? This one is a little trickier, because we really don’t know how the Patriots will operate defensively this season, although it appears that the team was dedicated to improving its athleticism along the defensive line, with additions including Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Jonathan Fanene, and Trevor Scott. Carter, who has beefed up to 275 pounds this offseason, may have been working towards a full-time shift to a down lineman, and although he is not a bad athlete, the team could feel he isn’t on the same level as some of the aforementioned players.
4. Development: Carter was signed to a reserve/future contract earlier this offseason after spending 2011 on the practice squad, and fits the mold of a developmental player. Although he’s still early into his NFL career, the team may not have seen the development in the 22-year old that it had hoped for.
Moves like these can take place for a variety of reasons, and it’s possible that none of the factors laid out above were involved in the decision. We have not been able to see much of Carter during OTA’s, as the on-field work is limited to non-contact drills.
The move may come as a surprise to some considering the fact that the Patriots invested heavily in Carter in December while he was a member of the practice squad, presumably to convince him to stay with the team in lieu of signing with an active roster elsewhere.