The Patriots announced today that they came to terms with sixth-round pick, DE/OLB Markell Carter from Central Arkansas and fifth-round pick, TE Lee Smith from Marshall. Neither moves are personnel blockbusters but are solid starts to building depth on the roster. It’s going to be tough for any rookie to be a big contributor without any mini-camps, but both of these players will get the opportunity.
Carter looks to help bolster the Pats’ pass rush, which has become an even bigger need with the release of Tully Banta-Cain. The teams’ current sack leader, Mike Wright, finished teh season with 5 1/2 sacks, albeit it was shoterned due to injury. That’s not good. If Carter can show that can be effective pressuring opposing quarterbacks, he could see significant playing time on passing downs as a role player until he learns the other nuances of the 3-4 OLB position.
The Patriots are crowded with top-quality players at the tight end position, with Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez already on the roster. However, Crumpler is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, so Lee Smith should see plenty of reps. Smith is known as a bull-rushing blocker, exactly the primary role Crumpler filled on the team, so it is conceivable to think that Smith could see all of Crumpler’s practice reps. Who knows, maybe Smith can wrestle the blocking role from the 33-year-old Crumpler. Crumpler’s primary sticking point would be his leadership if he can’t beat out Lee Smith.