Bruce Carter, Linebacker
Despite having the best statical season in his three year career as a member of the Cowboys in 2013, Carter is still considered by many to be an overall disappointment. A second round selection by Dallas in 2011, Carter spent most on his rookie year on the bench after suffering a devastating ACL injury late in his final season at the University of North Carolina. Some draft experts considered Carter a top-15 pick prior to the draft.
The Cowboys were rumored to have concerns about Carter’s abilities before his first full offseason in his sophomore year. Even so far as to have planned to draft Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. But the Cowboys ended up giving that pick away as part of the deal to acquire LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
But those reservations about Carter’s abilities seemed to subside as he won the starting linebacker role in 2012. Unfortunately, an elbow injury in late November ended his second season prematurely. Last year, Carter recorded 96 combined tackles and 2.0 sacks in 15 games. And although he did an admirable job filling in for injured middle linebacker Sean Lee, Carter was benched two games last season due to his poor pass coverage skills.
But the good folks over at Pro Football Focus analyzed Carter’s season in 2013 and came up with some interesting information. The numbers indicate that as the season progressed, so did his coverage abilities. So much so that Carter’s coverage skills were actually his biggest positive trait in 2013.
The bigger eye opener was the revelation that Carter was one of the worst 4-3 outside linebackers against the run last season. Out of the 94 total 4-3 outside linebackers evaluated, there were only two other players worse against the run than Carter. Overall, PFF ranked Carter as the 90th best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league last season. But he ranked 32nd best out of those 4-3 linebackers who played 25% of the snaps or more. Yet, that 32nd ranking was out of a total of only 35 linebackers who did.
Now, the 26-year old is in the final year of his rookie contract, and will become a free agent in 2015. If the Cowboys had to make a decision today, despite claims by Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones that Carter can still be outstanding, I believe team officials would choose not to re-sign him. It’s for that reason I can see Dallas placing Carter on the trading block.