Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wright wasn't right fit for Bucs

TAMPA

In slightly more than a year with the Buccaneers, cornerback Eric Wright was suspended for four games, inactive for one, missed another because of injury, produced only one interception and was arrested twice.

That hardly sounds like the kind of player that warranted a five-year, $37.5 million contract with $15 million guaranteed, let alone permitted to share a podium with Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks when they were introduced as free agents in 2012.

After his suspension for what he claimed to be Adderall, which is considered a performance-enhancing drug by the NFL, the Bucs were able to void $7.5 million in guarantees. (He lost another $2 million with the suspension.)

At that point, the team probably should have cut ties with Wright. It had the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card. Wright knew that in order to stay, at minimum, he would have to take a restructured contract for less money.

But remember, at the time, cornerback Aqib Talib had been traded to the Patriots, veteran defensive back Ronde Barber was contemplating retirement, talks to get Jets corner Darrelle Revis had not produced an agreement and the draft was still weeks away.

So the club signed Wright to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million in base salary and $1.5 million in incentives with no guaranteed money.

Wright was traded Friday to the 49ers for a conditional draft pick in 2014, one week after his arrest in Los Angeles on suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence (charges on a felony DUI in 2012 were dismissed).

The Bucs are fortunate to have Revis and to have been able to draft Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round. Banks will likely start opposite Revis.

Tampa Bay can talk glowingly about Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer and Anthony Gaitor, but they were part of the worst pass defense in the league a year ago.

So, why did the Bucs count on Wright a second time?

General manager Mark Dominik essentially turned up his nose at one of the largest free agent cornerback classes in recent years. Every team evaluates players differently. But none of those players were cost prohibitive and many took one-year deals: the Dolphins' Sean Smith (three years, $16.5 million with Chiefs); the Falcons' Brent Grimes (one year, $5.5 million with Dolphins); the Jags' Derek Cox (four years, $20 million with Chargers); the Eagles' Nnamdi Asomugha (one year, up to $3 million with 49ers); the Eagles' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (one year, $5 million with Broncos); the Falcons' Dunta Robinson (three years with Chiefs), to name a few.

Wright was wrong for the Bucs. He was looking for a third team in as many years when he signed here. Good corners with good character typically don't switch teams each season. That's not to say Wright didn't have skills. But you have to wonder about the Adderall suspension of Talib that preceded Wright's. You have to wonder why he keeps getting rides in the back of squad cars.

You also have to believe the Bucs knew this could end badly when they signed Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams several months ago.

Now the pressure is on Revis to be at full strength and able to take away half the field. Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson will make plays. Safety Mark Barron will be better. But corner? It's Revis and the rookie.

Somewhere Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall and Steve Johnson might feel better about playing against the Bucs.

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