Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Wright Must Prove Himself to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013

Tumultuous is a term that is barely even strong enough to describe the season Eric Wright had in his inaugural year in Tampa Bay. Wright was suspended for four games for substance abuse, injured for a good portion of the year, and was even benched in Week 17.

Much has been made of the Buccaneers’ decision to retain Wright, despite cutting his pay substantially, but recently it’s been Wright who’s been doing all the talking.

At a recent media session Wright claimed he is an “exceptional player,” said his one interception should have been “play of the year,” and announced, “as long as I’m healthy, there’s no way I don’t contribute on this team.”

So there you have it, Eric Wright is not going to let his little pay cut, or the addition of 3 DB’s deflate his confidence at all.

But all these moves have done something to Wright. They’ve made it to where he’s going to be the man under fire a lot of the time. If (when) Revis returns to form, and with the punishing safeties over the top, opposing QB’s are going to challenge Wright. So it’s up to Eric to prove himself over and over again.

Wright is expected to play a lot at CB across from Darrelle Revis, meaning he’ll have some high quality receivers to handle. Just in the NFC South he’ll have to deal with Julio Jones, Lance Moore, and Brandon LaFell twice each.

This gives Wright an exceptional opportunity. CB’s are always begging QB’s to throw the ball their way. They want to knock the ball away, bottle up their receiver, and maybe even cause a turnover here or there. Well, Wright’s going to get his wish. Now he just needs to prove that he’s up to the task.

Eric Wright’s stat line was underwhelming a year ago, but with the dismal state the Buc defense was in, it’s hard to put too much blame on him. The Buccaneers were 0-4 in the games in which Wright was suspended, so clearly his presence was needed on the field.

This year, he will be crucial. The Tampa Bay defense will likely sink or swim on the shoulders of Wright. And Wright knows it. That’s why he wasn’t afraid to restructure his deal to not only take a pay cut but also put himself on a one-year deal. He trusts himself, he believes he’s good enough to shut down anyone they put in front of him.

Now he just needs to prove it. And with a one-year deal, he’s given himself just one chance.

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  • RussMillerWY

    In defense of Eric Wright, he played well when he was healthy (the first couple of games), and a lot of the time he was in there he was playing with an achilles injury of some kind. An Achilles rupture, as we saw with Bowers and Graham recently, is one of the most serious injuries in sports. It was foolish of the Bucs to keep putting him out there and flirt with that, and foolish of us as fans to expect him to play at a high level when at times he looked like he couldn’t walk. Getting suspended and then being benched for week 17 might have prevented a complete rupture and actually saved his career. Lucky break, huh?

    The suspension for performance enhancing substances (as opposed to substance abuse, which implies recreational illegal drug use) happened to Wright, Talib, and one of the guys many think may be Revis’s successor as best CB in the NFL now (Sherman). It’s unfortunate that he crossed that line, but at least he was in good company when he made that mistake. Now that they all know how serious the NFL bureaucracy is taking that drug, they won’t do it again.

    Still, nobody cuts someone’s pay by 80%, reduces their contract length from the rest of their likely playing career to 1 year, and spends their top two draft picks on replacements for somebody they want to KEEP. Wright was not very highly regarded by other NFL teams during free agency, except by Dominik, who was embarrassed for having spent so much money on a CB with a reputation for being burned deep (how could he NOT know that?). Wright will be traded away for a low draft pick as soon as they’re sure Revis is healthy. Johnson, Revis, and Banks are their favorite corners, and Wright, perhaps unfairly, is the mistake they want to forget about as soon as possible.

    • Ken Boehlke

      I don’t believe the Bucs are writing him off as a mistake yet. Why re-sign him if you don’t expect to keep him. Dominik had a “get out of jail free” card with him and opted not to use it. He could have just let him go, free of any cap hit, and really any bad pub as most believed he’d be gone anyway.

      Wright can play, you are right that he’s struggled in his career on deep balls, but he did earn that big contract Dominik gave him last year.

      If he plays well, he’ll be on the other side of Revis for a long time, and I personally believe he will. If he stinks, he’s not even going to be worth a draft pick and the Bucs can let him walk after this year. It’s really a win win.

  • john

    I was at the game week 2 at MetLife last year. I saw Wright’s interception first hand, live in person. Let me tell you something, he’s right, it should have been play of the year and that play alone shows he can play.