The Patriots have lost a lot of veteran leadership on defense over the past few weeks, which has raised some questions over the lack of depth on the roster.
In a move that kills two birds with one pass-rusher, the Patriots signed defensive end Andre Carter, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.
Carter was part of the 2011 Patriots, providing an edge presence that—to that point—had been sorely needed. He logged 10 sacks in 14 games before he went down with a torn quadriceps, which forced him to miss the remainder of the season and the team's run to Super Bowl XLVI.
His services were not in high demand during the 2012 offseason, and he signed with the Raiders in Week 4 of that season. He finished the 2012 season with 2.5 sacks. He was re-signed in April and released in August during the team's cutdowns to the 53-man roster.
Now, back with the Patriots, Carter is in a perfect situation, playing in a system he knows and in a role that will not ask him to carry a heavy burden.
The Patriots already have defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich firmly entrenched as starters at those positions, but those two could use a break. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jones has played all but five snaps this season, and Ninkovich has played all but eight snaps. The two played all 93 snaps in the Patriots' 30-27 overtime loss to the Jets in Week 7.
Rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan is currently the team's top rotational defensive end and has seen the majority of his work in sub packages with 98 defensive snaps (19 percent of the team's total) on the season. Carter could leapfrog (or, perhaps, Quincy Jump) Buchanan for the role in sub packages.
One other potential wrinkle this move creates in the Patriots defensive line involves Jones seeing more time as an interior defensive lineman. He has given the Patriots a little extra juice in their pass-rush up the middle when he lines up there.
Make no mistake; Jones is not primed for a full-time move to the inside, but if Jones, Ninkovich and Carter all see the field at the same time, it's highly likely that Jones will be the one asked to kick inside.
More than anything else, this move provides depth at a key position where it was sorely needed—and veteran leadership for a defense that's lost a lot of it in a short period of time.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.