Justin Durant agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday, ending the linebacker’s two-year stay in Dallas. He is one of three linebackers off the Cowboys’ 2014 roster who entered free agency Tuesday.
Durant, Bruce Carter and Rolando McClain combined to start 28 games at linebacker for the Cowboys last season. Dallas had hoped to get both Durant and McClain back.
The Cowboys covered themselves last week after failing to come to agreements with either Durant or McClain by signing free agent Keith Rivers. Rivers, who turns 29 before the start of the season, started only three games last season for the Bills but would serve as a capable backup.
The Cowboys haven’t ruled out a Carter return, a source said, but it would have to be for the right price. He could get more from another team, with visits scheduled to Houston and Tampa Bay.
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Sean Lee returns this season after missing last season with a knee injury, and Anthony Hitchens played well his rookie season. The Cowboys still retain hopes of having McClain man the middle again, with Lee at weakside and Hitchens or Rivers at strongside.
As much as the Cowboys wanted Durant back for his versatility, they were reluctant to commit a lot of money to him because of that as well as his age and his injury history.
Durant, who turns 30 in September, missed 16 of 32 games in his two seasons in Dallas. He ended the past two seasons on injured reserve, with a hamstring injury in 2013 and a right biceps injury in 2014.
Durant led the team in tackles when he went on IR last season. He finished with 59 tackles, an interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2014.