Mark Dominik, Coach Shiano, and the Glazers have had MASSIVE holes to fill at the cornerback position this offseason. They finally began addressing that with the re-signing of Eric Wright just days ago. Buccaneer fans are wondering how smart (if at all) of a move this was, and what type of impact it will have on the front office’s outlook for the secondary this season.
Now let me answer the first question easily. This move was an extremely smart no-brainer, for MANY reasons.
Eric Wright was projected to go early in the second round of the 2007 draft, and due to a great effort at the combine, was seen going as high as a late first rounder. The Browns traded up (second time that draft) and completed a brilliant first day of selections. In his first few seasons, Wright started 45 of 46 games played, totaled 8 interceptions, a sack and 2 forced fumbles. But in 2010, his production dipped, his play became a bit sloppy, and he admittedly was having his worst career year. In week three alone he was burned for three touchdowns against the Ravens. Those disappointing performances, and the fact that rookie Joe Haden was a bright star, led the Browns to see Wright as an expendable player, and let him go into free agency. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Detroit Lions. The short contract was good for both sides. The Lions weren’t locked in if Wright had another bad year, and if he did, they could cut him loose. This also meant Wright was trying to prove himself again. He did so, having a career year with 4 INT’s, a FF, and 80 tackles. Now I know he was getting thrown at a lot more, but his stats were better than every Pro-Bowler except Charles Woodson, and that list includes Asante Samuel, Darrelle Revis, and Brent Grimes. After playing well in 2011, the Bucs saw the potential in Wright and locked him up in an over-inflated contract. We all know how disappointing that was. Last year was his worst season to date, and that includes the previously mentioned, blunderful 2010.
However, seeing how valuable this player CAN be, it made sense for the Bucs to retain him (and inform him he WON’T be traded). Don’t get me wrong though, this is mostly because of the re-structured deal. After having a terrible campaign, it would have made sense to trade Wright and go with a CB in the draft to pair with Darrelle Revis (assuming we get him). Now with such a low contract, we can still do that, AND keep Wright. He has many advantages, including more experience and proven skill than a rookie at the NFL level, he will be the most familiar with the playbook, regardless of who we bring in, and in his last contract year, he played lights out. Not to make excuses, but maybe he needed time to adjust to a newer system. Time will tell, but this was a very smart move, because it may inspire the best out of Wright.
As for changing our offseason plans…It simply doesn’t. Our weakest position is cornerback. This signing was more about insurance. Our plan B. If we were to get Revis in pewter, than we may not need to go as high in picking a CB, but it would still be wise because of Wright’s short contract, and unsure play. We can use him as a fill in this season to prepare any rookie taken, and with the new wage scale, we could even re-sign Wright if he plays well without taking too much of a hit. In essence, it wasn’t the Wright contract that makes an impact, it’s the potential Revis trade. If we get him, we can wait on picking a CB. If we don’t, than it is the Buccaneers’ highest priority on draft day. One thing nobody can forget here is our pass defense was last in the league. Regardless of who we sign, this is one position where depth is badly needed.
Lastly, the best thing about the deal, is that if we DON’T get Revis, we have a capable starter to line up with our rookie. I was getting upset when Tampa let so many free agent cornerbacks sign elsewhere, but really this was a SAFE plan. We know what we are getting with Wright, good and bad, and with his underperformance last season, things can only look up.
Hey, when the price is right, you jump on a deal. There are MANY reasons we can chalk this up as a win, now let’s hope that translates to our record.