Detroit Lions: Bobby Carpenter Likely Headed Elsewhere After Linebacker Signings

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterAugust 1, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Linebacker Bobby Carpenter #54 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Free agent linebacker Bobby Carpenter will likely explore the free agent market after the Detroit Lions made two key signings to their linebacking corps.

**UPDATE: With the injury and release of Zack Follett, Bobby Carpenter has been re-signed by the Detroit Lions, he signed Wednesday morning.

It was such a fairy tale.

Carpenter had been a square peg for his entire NFL career, being jammed into the round holes of a 3-4 defense in both Dallas and Miami. Perhaps the most famous moments of his career have been failures—Marc Colombo adding insult to injury in a rookie year Hard Knocks episode, and getting his special team's coach fired after a horrific Monday Night Football game.

Then, when the Miami Dolphins realized Carpenter didn't fit, the Detroit Lions gave him one more chance.

Carpenter thrived.

After joining the Lions in week seven, Carpenter excelled in a special team's role, tallying seven special teams tackles over the second half of the season. Moreover, when pressed into defensive snaps, Carpenter answered.

His solid play over the last four weeks of the season directly contributed to the four game winning streak with which the Lions have built their current momentum.

His play wasn't spectacular and this isn't the Bobby Carpenter Appreciation Hour. Pro Football Focus assigned Carpenter a zero for the last four games. Zero is average, having not been at fault for the team's negative plays.

Average is something the Lions hadn't seen for a long time—at least, not out of linebackers other than DeAndre Levy.

Average certainly isn't something that was expected out of Carpenter when he was pulled off of another losing team's trash heap. Carpenter was a warm body, only playing because of a huge rash of injuries to other players from which average was expected.

Most important to the Lions was Carpenter's ability in coverage, something the team has been sorely lacking since switching to Jim Schwartz' scheme. Carpenter was the best pass coverage backer on the team, which did not go unnoticed from team personnel and the media.

Suddenly, a training camp battle between Carpenter and Ashlee Palmer was being talked about in a positive way, as if the Lions might be better off starting one of those guys and seeing what kind of talent Schwartz and LB coach Matt Burke could squeeze out of them.

Now, Carpenter will almost assuredly be taking his talents elsewhere.

The Detroit Lions signed Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch out of Jacksonville and Tennessee respectively. Durant is likely to play strong-side linebacker, while Tulloch moves into the middle. Levy will likely move to the weakside in response to the additions.

In clear pass situations, Tulloch and Levy are likely to stay on the field, although Durant is no slouch in coverage either.

That leaves Carpenter neither with a starting job, nor a clear definable role.

Last year he earned one.

Lions beat writer Chris McCosky reported that the Lions are "hopeful, but not holding their breath" that Carpenter will be back with the team. While his role would be minimal, every team wants quality depth.

Still, if the market opens up for Carpenter, he will play elsewhere this season.


Michael Schottey is an on-call editor for the Bleacher Report College Writing Internship, as well as an NFL Featured Columnist and an NFL Labor/Draft Expert. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, he has professionally covered the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the Scouting Combine and the Senior Bowl. Follow him on   Twitter.