The Washington Football Team added a proven special teams player Thursday with the signing of DeAndre Carter.
An undrafted free agent in 2015, Carter has played in 47 career games with three teams. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Carter only has 34 career receptions for 386 yards, but he has established himself as a reliable punt and kick returner over the past three seasons.
Here are five things to know about Carter:
1. He won FCS Wide Receiver of the Year in 2014.
A San Jose, California, native, Carter starred at Washington High School before committing to Sacramento State. After serving as a role player in his first two seasons, he earned first-team All-Big Sky honors as a junior with 64 receptions for 934 yards and set a single-season school record with 14 touchdowns. But those statistics paled in comparison to the numbers he put up during his final collegiate campaign.
His 99 catches, 1,321 yards and 17 scores were all the most in Hornets history and top 5 nationally. In a game against Southern Utah, he hauled in 16 passes for 273 yards and found the end zone four times.
For his excellence, Carter was named 2014 FCS Wide Receiver Of The Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in the FCS. He then "stole the show during the week of practices at the NFLPA Bowl."
And even though Carter went undrafted, he earned himself an NFL opportunity he was not going to give up on.
2. He became a substitute teacher while waiting for his NFL opportunity.
Despite being cut several times over his first two seasons, Carter had no intentions of giving up his NFL dream. However, he wanted to stay busy and become involved in the community while continuing to work out.
So, after the New England Patriots released him before the 2016 season, he became a substitute teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Hayward, California. His mentor, Eddie Smith, was a guidance counselor there, according to The Athletic, and this was how he could pay him back for his longtime advice.
"I was trying to help out and help kids find their way through life in a rough area," Carter told the Houston Chronicle in 2018. "It gave me flexibility if I had to go fly somewhere, and the principal of the school was really good with me in terms of being able to go to work out for teams."
Carter's second occupation was short-lived, as he impressed the San Francisco 49ers enough to give him a two-year contract in February of 2017. And while he never saw the field -- spending the fall on the practice squad before getting released in the spring -- he caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles in the summer of 2018.
It was there that he finally made his NFL debut, recording his first-career catch in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.
3. He's a formidable punt and kick returner.
Perhaps Carter's best quality is as a punt returner. He has returned an average of 21 punts over the past three seasons with a career average of 9.3, which would have been good for eighth in the NFL last season. His best year came in 2019 with the Houston Texans, when his 9.7 punt return average ranked third in the league.
He has yet to take one back for a touchdown, but in a way that makes his average more impressive because there are not a few long scores to skew that number.
Carter is also a proven kick returner, with 45 career takebacks for 983 yards (21.8 average).
4. He can fill in at wide receiver when necessary.
Carter has only played more than 50% of the offensive snaps seven times in his NFL career, but he has been productive when called upon to contribute as a wide receiver. He averaged 3.7 catches for 43.1 yards in those contests.
The best example of this was during the regular season finale in 2019. In just his third start of the season, Carter played every snap for the Houston Texans' offense and set career highs with six receptions for 65 yards.
5. He could be a valuable part of Washington's roster in 2021.
Head coach Ron Rivera said during his press conference Thursday that during the second wave of free agency, Washington aimed to add "also positions," which resulted in the team signing slot receiver Adam Humphries and nickelback Darryl Roberts.
Had Washington announced Carter's signing before the press conference, Rivera may have mentioned Carter in that group as well for his specific expertise.
Among Washington punt returners with at least 10 returns over the past 10 seasons, only Brandon Banks (9.1 in 2011) and Jamison Crowder (12.1 in 2016) averaged more yards per return than Carter did in any of his past three seasons (9.6, 9.7, 8.4). In other words, Carter comes to Washington as one of the franchise's most productive punt returners of the last decade.
As for Carter as a kick returner, his career average (21.8) is similar to what Washington got out of cornerback Danny Johnson in 2020 (22.0).
These return skills will be key for a team that should be much improved on offense and excellence once again on defense. And if Carter does need to play wide receiver, he has shown he can excel there as well.