IRVING, Texas - When the topic of re-signing current players on this team whose contracts are expiring, names such as DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant immediately jump to the top of the list.
Even Rolando McClain, Doug Free, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris have been mentioned some as well.
But rarely is there a lot of talk about Bruce Carter.
Perhaps that changed somewhat after Sunday's game against the Redskins in which Carter had one of the best statistical games of his four-year career.
In fact, according to the Cowboys' coaching staff, Carter graded out better than any linebacker all season, and maybe in several years.
"Bruce played an outstanding game yesterday," head coach Jason Garrett said on Monday. "Matt Eberflus, our linebackers coach, does a great job with those guys, and one of the ways we evaluate our linebackers is by production points. Bruce set the record in production points (Sunday). Not only with the interceptions he had, but a number of tackles. He really showed up throughout the game. He really played an outstanding game for us."
Garrett went into greater detail of the point system his coaching staff uses to grade these linebackers.
"It's all relative to the number of plays that you play," Garrett explained. "You have positive production points and negative points that take away from the total. At the end of the day, 56 is pretty darn good. Again, it was much more than just the interceptions – those were huge plays for us in the red zone and critical moments in the game. He just made a number of tackles and really showed up as both a run defender and pass defender."
Carter's stat line included two interceptions (both in the red zone to stall Washington drives), 11 tackles, two for loss and two pass deflections.
This year, Carter led the defense with five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown to help clinch an early-season win over the Rams. Carter also had picks against the Jaguars, Eagles and then the final two against Washington. All five of Carter's interceptions this year came on the road, where the Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.
While Carter has just seven starts this year (six at strong side linebacker and one on the weak side), he's been a valuable part of the nickel defense and on special teams. Carter also blocked a punt earlier this month against the Bears.
"Bruce has always had a knack for making plays on the ball, whether it's blocking punts or intercepting passes or picking up fumbles, he's always had that knack," Garrett said. "He's done a good job for us this year in that regard. He leads our team in those categories. But I think, like with anybody else, he gets better with experience. We've played a lot of different combinations of linebackers this year because of injury and Bruce is one of those guys who has stepped up for us in a number of different occasions."