The Patriots were able to find a gem last season with the signing of defensive end Andre Carter. Due to the lockout, the whole off-season was jilted and the Patriots were forced to modify their defense to fit the skill sets of those on the roster. Carter stepped up in a big way as one of the league's premier pass rushers and run stoppers as the Patriots opened the season in the 4-3 set. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to an injury, but it's been generally assumed the Patriots have an idea that they'll bring Carter back as soon as he passes his physicals.
According to Tom Curran of CSNNE, that might not happen.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Carter said Tuesday when asked if he knew the Patriots plans for him. "They kind of just said, 'Thanks for everything,' at the end of the year and I haven't heard from them since. But I'm optimistic everything works out."
Apparently, the Patriots haven't even talked to Carter, which isn't a very good sign. I was expected at least some discussion to the extent of, "Hey, let us know when you feel healthy." If the Patriots haven't even talked with him, I don't think the prospects are that good of Carter returning before the pre-season.
My guess is that the Patriots are hoping to move on from the 4-3 defense (and Carter and Mark Anderson) and shift back to a more hybrid scheme that Carter doesn't fit. However, if no player emerges during the off-season, the Patriots still have the chance to bring back Carter and reinvent their defense.
The Patriots aren't strangers to using some of the older players and moving on. Stud blocking tight end Alge Crumpler immediately comes to mind. Rotational defensive tackle Gerard Warren wasn't signed until early August last season. If the Patriots want Carter, they'll get him back in the fold, but it's likely that they want to exhaust all other venues in order to bring youth and progress to the defense. Carter will most likely be a last resort.