Michael Carter (North Carolina)

AFC East Rumors: Lazard, Carter, Jackson, Montgomery

The Jets lost to the Dolphins today in Tim Boyle‘s first start since 2021, and while Boyle failed to provide the offensive spark the team has been searching so desperately for, his arsenal of weapons hardly set him up for success. Part of that was the absence of veteran wide receiver Allen Lazard, who, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, was a healthy scratch from today’s game.

Florio relays that Lazard reportedly believes that it is “a one-game thing,” but after only being target once last week, Florio isn’t quite as sure. The report claims that, despite his existing history with injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, “the internal assessment of Lazard is far from flattering.”

Still, without him, Garrett Wilson saw 10 targets. Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson were the only other wide receivers to see targets, while the rest of Boyle’s attempts targeted tight ends and running backs. With Randall Cobb already out for the past four games, New York can hardly afford more missed time from Lazard, as well.

Here are a few other rumors from the AFC East, with another coming from Gang Green:

  • New York waived a former starter in running back Michael Carter a couple weeks ago. The young rusher had been benched after getting penalized for a chop block and had been buried on the depth chart behind Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. The hope was that rookie fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda would be able to step into the third-down role and provide a spark with his speed, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, but in today’s loss, Abanikanda didn’t register a touch. Hall instead took over the passing downs role, registering nine targets as the Jets were in catch-up mode for most of the contest.
  • A new update on the drama with Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson comes straight from Jackson himself, through Mark Daniels of Mass Live. After reports that Jackson failed to show up to the team hotel the night before their game with the Commanders and then subsequently was kept home during the team’s trip to Germany, Jackson explained the situation. Jackson tole Daniels that he had “missed multiple ‘bed checks'” on the night before the Washington game. He was told to stay home from Germany as a punishment, which he claims to have accepted, learned from, and apologized for. In fact, Jackson claims to now be even more appreciative of head coach Bill Belichick, as a result.
  • We saw New England pick up running back JaMycal Hasty off waivers a couple weeks ago, and with that addition, Mike Reiss of ESPN thinks veteran dual-threat back Ty Montgomery‘s job could be in danger. Hasty has a very similar skill set to Montgomery’s and is three years his junior. Montgomery, on the other hand, spent nearly all of last year on the team’s injured reserve and has seen his offensive contributions dwindle in 2023. Reiss could be right in thinking that Hasty has been brought in to replace Montgomery in the Patriots’ running backs room.

Cardinals Claim RB Michael Carter

5:19pm: The Buccaneers and Commanders also put in Carter claims, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Both four-win teams reside behind the Cardinals in the waiver order, leading the young running back to the desert.

3:47pm: Michael Carter did not advance far down the waiver priority list. His name stopped at the Cardinals, who submitted a successful claim, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. The 2-8 team will move see what the third-year back can provide.

The Jets made the surprising decision to waive the backup running back Tuesday. The 2021 draftee is signed through 2024. This marks another reserve RB addition for the Cardinals, who have cycled through a few this season. Carter, 24, is due a nonguaranteed $1.1MM next year.

Both Damien Williams and Tony Jones Jr. emerged as backups during the Cardinals’ stretch without James Conner. The team moved on from both last week, with Conner back in the fold after a four-week IR stay. Despite Conner’s return to the 53-man roster, Arizona will still gauge Carter’s fit in Drew Petzing‘s offense.

One of two Michael Carters the Jets drafted in 2021, the North Carolina alum showed some promise as a rookie. In the Joe DouglasRobert Saleh regime’s first offseason, the Jets chose Carter in Round 4. Carter proceeded to lead the Jets in rushing that season, totaling 639 yards (4.3 per carry) and four touchdowns. The former Javonte Williams Tar Heels teammate nearly reached 1,000 scrimmage yards as a rookie, contributing 325 through the air as well. Carter’s scrimmage-yards total that year paced the Jets by more than 300.

Carter enjoyed that notable rookie season despite missing three games, but with the Jets finishing 4-13, it did not generate too much acclaim. The Jets drafted Breece Hall in the 2022 second round, demoting Carter. The team also signed Dalvin Cook this offseason, bringing in the ex-Vikings Pro Bowler as Hall insurance. While Carter held off Bam Knight for a roster spot this year, the team is expected to give more playing time to rookie fifth-rounder Israel Abanikanda. Carter averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last season, filling in as one of the Jets’ solutions following Hall’s ACL tear.

The Cardinals have kept Keaontay Ingram and rookie UDFA Emari Demercado in place as Conner’s backups. Carter will join the roster as a fourth running back, potentially providing aid on passing downs. That said, Demercado has missed the past two games with a toe injury. Carter will supply more depth to a Cardinals team that could look to him as a multiyear contributor. This regime did not authorize Conner’s three-year, $21MM extension, calling the veteran’s 2024 status into question. For now, Carter profiles as a Conner backup in the again-Kyler Murray-led Cards attack.

Jets Cut RB Michael Carter

The Jets have moved on from their former starting running back. The team announced that they’ve waived RB Michael Carter.

The 2021 fourth-round pick led the Jets backfield as a rookie, collecting 964 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He was expected to take a back seat to Breece Hall in 2022 but was inserted back into the starting lineup following his teammate’s season-ending injury. While he started 10 of his 16 appearances last season, Carter wasn’t nearly as productive during his second season in the NFL, finishing the year with only 690 yards from scrimmage.

With Hall healthy and the Jets signing Dalvin Cook, Carter was buried on the depth chart this year. He saw most of his work on third downs, hauling in 15 receptions for 68 yards. Carter also had another 38 yards on the ground. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini notes, Carter was benched during Sunday’s loss to the Raiders after being penalized for a chop-block.

After that game, coach Robert Saleh hinted that changes could be coming to the offense. And as Cimini notes, cutting Carter sends a clear message to a struggling offense that no one is safe.

“We’re looking at some things, some different personnel changes, which I’m going to keep here with me, but we’re looking across the board to see if we can find a way to generate some offense,” Saleh said.

Still, considering Carter’s production during his rookie campaign, it shouldn’t take long for the running back to find his next squad. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Carter should have some suitors on the waiver wire.

With Carter now out of the picture, the Jets are likely going to give fifth-round rookie Israel Abanikanda any leftover snaps at the position. The Pitt product is known for his elite speed and could add a spark to an offense that’s struggling to find the end zone.

Jets’ Michael Carter To Miss Time

Jets rookie running back Michael Carter has been diagnosed with a low-grade high ankle sprain (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Carter is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but there’s no word yet on whether the Jets will move him to the injured reserve list.

Carter — not to be confused with the Jets’ rookie fifth-round defensive back of the same name — was a fourth-round selection in this year’s draft. This Carter split time with Broncos second-round pick Javonte Williams at UNC and registered back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2019 and 2020. His senior year was particularly efficient — the 5-foot-7, 201-pounder averaged 8.0 yards per tote en route to 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns.

So far this year, he’s got 430 yards off of 111 carries (3.9 ypc average). In an all-around flat Jets offense, he’s emerged as the top option ahead of veteran Tevin Coleman and the rest of the bunch.

Without Carter, the Jets will lean more on Coleman, Ty Johnson, La’mical Perine, and Nick Bawden when they take on the Texans this week.

Poll: Which Rookie Running Back Will Finish With Most Rushing Yards?

Quarterbacks, per usual, dominated this year’s pre-draft coverage. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and four wide receivers then went off the board in the top 20. Running backs, as they have done in a few drafts over the past decade, waited.

While two went in Round 1, the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne pick preceded a 60-pick stretch during which just one running back — the Broncos’ Javonte Williams choice — went off the board. The 2021 draft matches 2016 and 2003 for the fewest backs chosen in the top 80 (three) in the common draft era (1967-present), continuing a grim era for this once-storied position. But several of this year’s draftees have quick paths to key roles.

Linked to Najee Harris ahead of the draft, the Steelers took the Alabama standout at No. 24. Harris will join a Steelers team that ranked last in rushing in 2020. Although the Alabama product scored 30 touchdowns in his senior season and topped 1,200 rushing yards in two straight years, he will now play behind an offensive line that went through considerable turnover this offseason. The Steelers lost 17 Pro Bowls on their offensive line this year. They will replace Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva with far less experienced players, and David DeCastro‘s replacement (Trai Turner) struggled in 2020. Will Harris’ talent be enough to overcome significant O-line concerns in Pittsburgh?

Etienne joins a Jags team that just saw James Robinson set the rookie UDFA record for scrimmage yards (1,414) despite missing two games in 2020. Jacksonville also signed Carlos Hyde, who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Etienne spent time at receiver during the Jags’ offseason program but should be expected to contribute heavily in the backfield. Like Harris, Etienne stayed in college for four years. He twice surpassed 1,600 rushing yards and totaled 78 college TDs — most of which coming alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence — but will this unusual setup (for a first-round back, that is) translate to rookie-year production?

The Broncos traded up four spots for Williams in Round 2, Pro Football Focus’ top-rated back in this class, and chose the North Carolina product 36th overall. Williams teamed with Jets draftee Michael Carter to form one of the nation’s top backfield tandems. Williams compiled just one 1,000-yard season with the Tar Heels but led Division I-FBS with 75 broken tackles in 2020. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon signed through 2021, but the John Elway-era addition does not appear to be a lock to hold off Williams for the starting role.

The rest of the rookie field includes third-rounder Trey Sermon (49ers), Carter (fourth round, Jets) and a host of backs ticketed for early-career backup roles. While injuries certainly will hit the running back position, potentially forcing some of the later-round picks into the fray, Sermon and Carter have the best bets of seeing steady action among the mid- and late-round selections.

An Oklahoma and Ohio State product, Sermon also played four years. He averaged more than seven yards per carry in each of his past two, though he never topped 1,000 on the ground. Lead 49ers back Raheem Mostert is coming off an injury-marred season. The Jets added Tevin Coleman, who joined Mostert in missing most of last season, but do not have another back with much experience. This could allow Carter (two 1,000-yard years at North Carolina) early upward mobility, despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

Which rookie back will rush for the most yards in 2021? Who are the later-round candidates or UDFAs who can join these players as early contributors? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Jets Sign Fourth-Round RB Michael Carter

Although the Jets still have higher-profile rookie contracts to finalize, they are done with the Michael Carter section of their rookie deals. The first of the team’s two Michael Carters chosen, the fourth-round running back signed his four-year rookie pact Friday.

This comes nearly a month after fifth-round defensive back Michael Carter agreed to terms. These two played against one another in the ACC and both have paths to immediate playing time. A former North Carolina running back, this Michael Carter figures to become a higher-profile name sooner — perhaps due to the fantasy realm.

Carter split time with Broncos second-round pick Javonte Williams with the Tar Heels and ripped off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons to close his college career. The 5-foot-7, 201-pound back delivered an efficient senior season, averaging 8.0 yards per carry to reach 1,245 and nine touchdowns for a potent Tar Heels ground attack.

The Jets signed Tevin Coleman this offseason, and although the former Falcons and 49ers back has extensive experience working with OC Mike LaFleur, he has battled constant injury trouble over the past two seasons. Carter, who figures to compete for playing time ahead of his rookie season, also joins 2020 fourth-round pick La’Mical Perine in the Jets’ post-Le’Veon Bell backfield.

Of the Jets’ 10-man draft class, seven members have signed. Only the team’s first- and second-rounders — Zach Wilson,Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore — are unsigned.