Barring any last minute change of heart, the Buccaneers will most likely release cornerback Eric Wright prior to the start of the upcoming offseason workouts. Wright is set to join the ranks of Tanard Jackson, Brian Price and Aqib Talib, players who failed to live up to the standards expected by head coach Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers' organization.
Eric Wright has most likely played his last down for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s ban on performance-enhancing substances the team is prepared to go in another direction, and most likely will release Wright before the start of any OTA (organized team activities) in the spring. The Buccaneers are set to begin their offseason program in mid-April.
The Buccaneers activated Wright to the roster last Saturday on the eve of the final regular season game at Atlanta, but declared him inactive for the actual game. The Buccaneers decided to not take the chance of Wright suffering a significant injury that would have left them on the hook for his salary next season, giving them the option to release him prior to next season.
The team will look to improve the cornerback position via free agency this spring, although sources say the potential crop of free agents isn’t very promising. The Buccaneers will also address the position in April’s NFL Draft.
Wright was signed last offseason as part of the “Big Three” along with wide receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks, as the Glazers opened their checkbooks and went on a free agency spending bonanza, unlike anytime previously seen in Buccaneers’ franchise history.
But even though Wright was being counted on to provide an upgrade in the Buccaneers secondary, as Pewter Report publisher Scott Reynolds wrote last month in the December digital magazine – Wright's signing didn't seem to fit. As Reynolds wrote, From the moment the Buccaneers inked him to a five-year, $37.5-million contract there have been questions about Wright. He wasn’t as good as wide receiver Vincent Jackson or left guard Carl Nicks, yet he was signed to an average of $7.5 million per season, which was a smidgen less than the two Pro Bowl free agent imports. Why did the Bucs overpay for a good – but not great – cornerback?
Shortly after Wright was signed, it was learned by Pewter Report that Wright was dealing with a serious undisclosed medical condition that affected his energy levels negatively. Wright missed a good deal of the offseason workouts and organized team activity days due to the undisclosed medical condition. The team was actually concerned they made a colossal mistake by signing him to such a huge deal during the summer, but Wright got the medicine he needed to treat his condition and was able to take part in training camp.
Character questions surfaced when Wright was arrested in California on a suspicion of DUI charge after being involved in a vehicle crash on July 1. Two weeks later, the charges were dropped, although Wright admitted to having some alcoholic drinks prior to the accident. Those questions had been raised a few years back when Wright was arrested in college in 2005 on a suspicion of rape charge at USC before transferring to UNLV.
Once in training camp, Wright injured his lower back and the back injury flared up a couple of times during the season in games. Then once the season began, nagging injuries kept Wright out part or all of handful of games in 2012.
Playing in eight games and parts of two others, Wright was able to record only 39 tackles, eight pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown at New York.
Wright had good production, but not much different than that of nickel cornerback E.J. Biggers, a former seventh-round pick who recorded 51 tackles and an interception, seven pass breakups, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one sack. Biggers made $1.45 million in 2012 – about $6.3 million less than Wright.
In late October it was revealed that Wright had tested positive for the banned substance Adderall and was facing a four-game suspension. Wright appealed the suspension, but lost, and began the four-game sentence the last week of November.
Wright lost nearly $1.9 million dollars in salary during the suspension and the Buccaneers failed to win a single game during that four-game stretch.
Part of the dilemma the Buccaneers face by releasing Wright is the cornerback position is easily the thinnest on the team, and poised to get even thinner. With Biggers and Brandon McDonald set to become free agents, the only roster cornerbacks that Tampa Bay can count on as Buccaneers are Anthony Gaitor, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer and Myron Lewis.
Greg Schiano has a track record of actually making the depth and talent at a shaky position worse just to get rid of the wrong guys at One Buccaneer Place. Tampa Bay parted ways with Kellen Winslow, Tanard Jackson, Brian Price, Dezmon Briscoe and Aqib Talib, and now it appears Eric Wright will be the next in line to be dismissed after failing to live up to the responsibility of being “Buccaneer Men.”– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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