Given the size of this deal, 17 million over 4 years with 4.2 million guaranteed, suggests that the Buccaneers view Carter as a starter and an every down player. I think that’s a mistake based on his career play. The Cowboys drafted Bruce Carter in the 2nd round in 2011 despite the fact that he tore his ACL late in his final collegiate season at North Carolina. Carter was limited to 41 snaps as a rookie, but he looked on his way to a breakout 2nd season before a serious arm injury cut his season short. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked middle linebacker on 625 snaps and 11 starts.
Moving back to his natural position of 4-3 outside linebacker in 2013, many expected him to have a great season, but he did the opposite, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 32nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker out of 35 eligible. In 2014, he was limited to 8 starts in 13 games and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 34th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker out of 40 eligible. The potential he once appeared to have seems to have dissipated and he’s a borderline starting outside linebacker and an injury prone one at that, with 15 missed games in 4 seasons. This is an overpay.
The one thing that’s intriguing about this deal is that Carter could play middle linebacker in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers need an every down player at that spot, with Mason Foster expected to go elsewhere this off-season. They don’t need an every down outside linebacker because Lavonte David does that and the amount they’re paying him suggests they’re going to play him every down somewhere. Carter did play well at middle linebacker in 2012, but he’s never played inside in a 4-3. This contract is too much money to risk to find out anyway, even if there isn’t any guaranteed money beyond 2015.