The 2011 season was a season to remember for defensive end Andre Carter, as he earned his first Pro-bowl berth of an eleven-year career.
Andre hung up one of his best seasons, making 52 tackles and 10 sacks, including four against the rival New York Jets, which would tie a New England Patriots franchise record for most sacks in one game. At the age of 33, the former Redskin proved that his old bones could still perform at a high level.
Beyond his production on the field, Andre Carter brought a professional demeanor and veteran leadership to the locker room. Even defensive captain and four-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork admired Carter's work ethic:
"That’s one thing that I’ve taken from him, as a veteran myself, just being able to work every day, however your body feels, just fighting through. That’s what he’s brought and it shows. On Sunday, it shows. He’s 100 miles per hour. The guy never gets tired. We all have to pull our own weight, but just by seeing a guy work like that, however long he’s been in the league, makes it easier for us to go out and contribute."
Resigning Carter would be consistent with what the Patriots have been doing all offseason: Building talented depth at every position group.
We saw what a lack of quality depth can do to a position group last season when wide receivers Julien Edelman and Matthew Slater were getting substantial playing time at safety and corner. While the two performed admirably, it is not a position Belichick wants to be in again any time soon.
With the recent first-round draft selection of defensive end Chandler Jones, it makes a lot of sense to bring Carter back on board. Moving up to the 21st selection in the first round suggests that the Patriots are expecting an immediate contribution from Jones.
Who better to bring along the young stud than Andre Carter, who has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker (although Carter is clearly a better fit at DE) which is most likely what the Patriots will ask Jones to do?
Moving up the board in the first round is something the Patriots' organization seldom does, as they haven't moved up in the first round since 2003, where they moved up from 14 to 13 to select Ty Warren.
With such a large investment, the Patriots would be wise to put Jones in the best possible position to succeed, and Carter can help. Would Jerod Mayo have been the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 had Tedy Bruschi not been there to show him the ropes?
Not only would Carter provide Pro-bowl caliber talent to the defensive line and serve as a perfect mentor to younger guys like Jones, but he should also present great value. Given his age (he will turn 34 later this month) and coming off a quadriceps tendon injury, Carter should be able to sign on the cheap.
Throw in the fact that Carter has his best chance to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots, and it looks like a win-win for both parties.
The Patriots were smart enough in 2011 to realize that an aging Carter could still produce. Now, heading into the 2012 season, it is up to the Patriots to prove that they are smart enough to not let him slip away.