Dallas Cowboys

Carter leaves Cowboys for deal with Tampa Bay

Bruce Carter played 49 games with Dallas after being a second-round pick in 2011 out of North Carolina.
Bruce Carter played 49 games with Dallas after being a second-round pick in 2011 out of North Carolina. Star-Telegram

The Dallas Cowboys saw a linebacker depart via free agency for the second consecutive day Wednesday.

Bruce Carter reached an agreement with Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers announced, a day after Justin Durant bolted to the Atlanta Falcons.

Carter, 27, had an up-and-down career with the Cowboys since joining the organization as a second-round draft pick out of North Carolina in 2011. Carter flashed signs of greatness at times, but also had lapses that left coaches scratching their heads.

But he played well down the stretch in the 2014 season, earning the nickname as “the closer” from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Carter finished the season with a team-high five interceptions, and was credited with 60 tackles by the coaches during the regular season. He had 19 tackles in the playoffs, including 12 in the season-ending loss to the Packers.

The Cowboys had interest in bringing Carter back for the right price, but his market value proved to be too high. It has been reported that the Bucs will play Carter up to $20.5 million over four years with $4.2 million guaranteed.

For his career with the Cowboys, Carter finished with 278 tackles, three sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback pressures and 15 passes defended.

The Cowboys entered the off-season with three linebackers — Carter, Durant and Rolando McClain — hitting free agency, and hoped to keep at least two of them. Now they’re down to trying to get McClain under contract for next season. Both sides have expressed an interest in making that happen, but it’s unknown if there has been any progress.

The Cowboys do have talent at the linebacker corps, with Sean Lee set to return from last summer’s season-ending injury and Anthony Hitchens having shown promise last season as a rookie. They also have Kyle Wilber and Cameron Lawrence under contract, and signed veteran linebacker Keith Rivers earlier this off-season to compete for a job.

Besides Carter and Durant, the Cowboys have also lost offensive tackle Jermey Parnell and return specialist Dwayne Harris in free agency.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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