Does Ted Thompson have one more bullet in his offseason pistol?
After providing new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defense two vital pieces with nose tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews III in the first round of last week's draft, one void remains on the roster.
Could Kevin Carter be the solution?
Carter's agent, Harold Lewis, told Packer Report on Monday that there is "obviously an interest from both sides" for the veteran defensive end. Lewis said he's kept in contact with Packers director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie.
Carter, who turns 36 in September, is a physical marvel. Carter was the St. Louis Rams' first-round draft pick in 1995. During his 14 seasons in the NFL, he has played in all 224 games with 219 starts. His four sacks last season for Tampa Bay gave him 104.5 for his career.
At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, he has a build ideally suited to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. While his best days are behind him — he was a Pro Bowler in 1999 and 2002 — his 30 starts during his two years in Tampa Bay show that he remains a steady and productive player.
During Thompson's tenure in Green Bay, he has shied away from signing free agents who are on the downside of their career. But adding Carter would add depth at defensive end, where presumed starters Cullen Jenkins (torn pectoral) and Johnny Jolly (drug charges) and reserves Justin Harrell (back), Michael Montgomery (weight) and Jarius Wynn (rookie) provide a depth chart riddled with questions. Plus, he's considered a locker room leader who could mentor some of the younger players, and he is a difference-maker off the field with his Kevin Carter Foundation.
Lewis said there's "no rush" for Carter to make a decision. Carter, Lewis said, has reached the point in his life where he has "earned" the right to carefully decide his new employer. Carter, who grew up in Tallahassee, Fla., played collegiately at Florida and has spent his last four seasons in Florida (Miami, 2005 and 2006; Tampa Bay, 2007 and 2008) probably is reluctant to uproot his family life, especially at this point in the offseason.
"He's never missed a game or practice, and everyone knows his work ethic is impeccable," Lewis said.
A return to Tampa Bay isn't out of the question, though he met with Detroit Lions officials last week.
"He's an older player, but he's incredibly durable and he's strong," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who coached Carter with the Tennessee Titans. "We'll see what comes of it."
There's not much urgency for the Packers, either, who might as well see if Jolly and Montgomery can make the transition and if Harrell can remain healthy. Plus, there's sixth-rounder Wynn and intriguing undrafted free agents Ronald Talley and Dean Muhtadi. Raji spent a portion of the rookie camp playing left defensive end, and coach Mike McCarthy has said nose tackle Ryan Pickett can play outside, too.
"You watch Ryan Pickett ... you forget about his foot quickness and his agility," McCarthy said. "He may not look like the most-prototype 3-4 defensive end, but that's definitely a position we will talk to Ryan when he gets back from vacation as far as playing out there. Johnny Jolly, I think, is an excellent prospect out there. Michael Montgomery has the levers to play that position. So, we feel very good about the group."
Plus, in some of the Packers' defensive subpackages, Aaron Kampman will move from outside linebacker back to his old position as an end when the defense goes to a four-man front.
The Packers probably will keep six defensive linemen. Pickett, Raji and Jenkins are locks. Adding Carter would mean that either Jolly, Montgomery or Harrell would be the odd man out.
"Like I said before the draft, we were in a position where we didn't have to do anything," Thompson said. "We didn't feel like there were any gaping holes. I don't think you ever stop trying to push the competition level and try to make your group better by adding players. But I don't necessarily think we have any gaping holes, nor did I before."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.