Loss of Bruce Carter would continue a Cowboys trend

IRVING, Texas -- Bruce Carter is visiting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday and has another trip scheduled to the Houston Texans.

Over the course of his four years with the Dallas Cowboys, Carter had some significant moments, but there were also just as many or more moments when he frustrated his coaches.

They see a player who is as athletically gifted as they come. He can run with running backs, tight ends and even a receiver. He is strong. He can make the hard things look easy, but sometimes he makes the easy things look hard.

The Cowboys' need to keep Carter, however, might have risen with the departure of Justin Durant to the Atlanta Falcons on the first day of free agency.

Carter checked every defensive category except forced fumbles and fumble recoveries in 2014. He led the Cowboys with five interceptions. He played his best football down the stretch. Three of his four tackles for loss came in the final month. Three of his eight pass deflections came in the final month. The coaches credited him with 20 of his 60 solo tackles in the final month.

Was it a sign of a player figuring it out finally, or should the Cowboys lean more on four seasons than a final month?

The departure of Durant makes it tricky. Carter can play all three linebacker spots, but they believe he is best suited as a strong-side 'backer and mixed in as a nickel defender. He can also be a solid special-teamer with a knack for getting to the punter.

Like everything, it will come down to price, and other teams might be more willing to spend on Carter than the Cowboys.

If he does leave, it would continue a trend the Cowboys need to see end quickly.

From 2003-10, the Cowboys have had seven second-round picks, and only Sean Lee (Class of 2010) has signed a second contract with the team. Al Johnson (2003), Julius Jones (2004), Jacob Rogers (2004), Kevin Burnett (2005), Anthony Fasano (2006) and Martellus Bennett (2008) either never played a game (Rogers), were traded before the rookie deal ended (Fasano) or left via free agency (Johnson, Jones, Burnett, Bennett).

The Cowboys took tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round in 2013, and he hasn't done much to think he will get a second contract with the Cowboys either.

The second round is about value and finding long-term fits. The Cowboys haven’t found enough of them, and that has to change.