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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

While Eric Wright plays waiting game, Bucs show no urgency



We’ve been telling you for months that Bucs cornerback Eric Wright is almost certain to be released, something that remains true today.

But you might be mildly surprised to find he’s still on the roster one day before free-agent negotiations begin in the NFL. So, what gives?

Here’s the deal: Wright initially expected to be released as early as this week, but he now has been told the Bucs have decided to hold off, at least for now. There has been no change in his contract – the team still has the right to void it – but the timetable certainly has.

The obvious question here is why? Are the Bucs having second thoughts? Are they worried about their ability to replace Wright?

Here's why the Bucs are waiting: Because they can. When Wright was suspended for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy (Wright says he used Adderall), the guarantees in his five-year contract became void.

That includes the $7.75 million in base salary he’s on the books for in 2013. But because it’s no longer guaranteed, there is nothing substantial in Wright’s deal that would trigger his release (roster bonuses, etc). Also, base salaries aren’t paid until the regular season, so there’s no urgency in that regard.

This won’t sit well with Wright, who wants out sooner than later. If he’s released after the first few waves of free-agent signings, there will be less money and jobs available for him on the open market. He’s already going to be fighting the stigma associated with his suspension, so being released at a later date will only compound his problems.

But that probably means very little to the Bucs. They hold the cards here. Because they are in such a comfortable salary-cap position, they can easily absorb Wright’s cap number and still conduct business in free agency next week.

And in the event the Bucs strike out in their efforts to add talent in the secondary (though unlikely), they could attempt to negotiate a contract restructure with Wright. That possibility is remote because Wright appears uninterested, but if more time passes and circumstances changed, perhaps his stance would, too.

We don’t know when the Bucs will ultimately make a decision on Wright, but here’s something to keep in mind: If Wright is with the Bucs by the time offseason workouts begin next month, it would be stunning. It’s at that point (if Wright attends) the team begins to assume to liability for injuries. If Wright suffered an injury during offseason workouts (see Bowers, Da’Quan), the team could be on the hook for his full salary. If they’re not going to keep him, that’s a risk the Bucs just won’t take.

But for now, Wright will have to continue doing what he’s been doing since the season ended – waiting.

[Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 10:31am]


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