What factors led Bucs general manager Mark Dominik to trade troubled cornerback Eric Wright to the 49ers? Which cornerbacks are now in contention to start in place of Wright? Get the answers in this Pewter Report Analysis article by Scott Reynolds.
In time, Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson might be better players than cornerback Eric Wright, who was surprisingly traded from Tampa Bay to San Francisco on Friday for a conditional draft pick in 2014. But they have already proven to be more trust worthy to the Buccaneers organization than Wright has.
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik was prepared to release Wright due to an alleged misdemeanor arrest on July 12 in Los Angeles, but luckily found a trade partner in San Francisco at the last minute. Dominik was smart enough to do the same thing last year when he traded away tight end Kellen Winslow and defensive tackle Brian Price for late-round draft picks just before cutting them. One can presume the conditional draft choice obtained for Wright is a sixth- or seventh-rounder from the 49ers.
Since becoming a Buccaneer in March of 2012 Wright was arrested on suspicion of a DUI last summer (charges were later dropped), and was also suspended four games last year for using the performance-enhancing drug Adderall. That suspension cost Wright millions as it voided the guaranteed money in his contract in 2013 and allowed Dominik to account for his mistake in giving the free agent cornerback a five-year, $37.5-million deal that was too hefty.
Wright agreed to a restructuring that trimmed his contract to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million and was expected to be a starter in base or nickel defense given his experience. But a second arrest as a Buccaneer rightly prompted Dominik to release him.
Simply put, Wright was not a Buccaneer man in the mold that Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano want within their organization.
While Wright’s exodus takes away some experience from Tampa Bay’s secondary, the Bucs still like their group of cornerbacks, which is headlined by the acquisition of four-time Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. All indications point to Revis, the game’s premier shutdown cornerback, being able to participate in the opening day from training camp on July 25 as his rehabilitation on his surgically repaired knee is almost complete.
Banks, who was added in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, will get the chance to battle Johnson, an undrafted free agent who was signed in 2012, for the right to start opposite Revis. Banks has been drawing rave reviews for his performance in Tampa Bay’s OTAs (organized team activities) and mini-camps in which he has quickly digested the defense and made a few splash plays while playing more like a veteran than a rookie.
“He showed skills and he showed ability,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “The important thing now is where you get repetition right? Because training camp is day after day after day, that’s where you can really make huge improvements. In the spring you go, then you are off, then you go, then you are off – that kind of deal. So this is where rookies really make their fastest transition and I’m sure he will. He works very hard and he’s talented.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks recorded 221 tackles, 26 pass breakups, 16 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, and five forced fumbles in his illustrious Mississippi State career.
Prior to Wright’s departure on Friday, Banks addressed the media a day earlier after a rookie orientation practice at One Buc Place and discussed his chances of earning a starting spot on Tampa Bay’s defense.
“They aren’t just going to throw me in the fire,” Banks said cryptically. “They aren’t just going to give me a job. I am going have to work for it. If I want a job I’m going to have to come out here and work just like they do. They aren’t just going to give me the job. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then I will just play my role and try and help this team win.”
Wright’s departure will absolutely throw Banks into the fire. Banks’ primary competition will come from Johnson, who came on during the second half of his rookie season and finished second on the team with three interceptions, including one he returned 83 yards for a game-clinching touchdown in a 34-24 win over San Diego. The playmaking rookie from Clearwater, Fla. also had 41 tackles, nine pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his initial season in the NFL.
By comparison, Wright recorded just 37 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception that was returned for a touchdown against New York, and a fumble recovery against Dallas in his first and only disappointing season in Tampa Bay, while missing six games due to injury or suspension.
As insurance in case something like Wright’s summertime arrest happened, which it did, Dominik took the security measure of signing veteran nickel cornerback Mike Adams at the conclusion of the team’s mandatory mini-camp. The 5-foot-8, 181-pound Adams, who is entering his seventh year in the league, has 165 tackles, 18 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles in his six years with the Arizona Cardinals.
The 28-year old Adams will also get the chance to be in the mix to start in base, nickel and dime defensive packages. Tampa Bay also likes Danny Gorrer and undrafted rookie Rashaan Melvin, who will also figure in the mix for the Bucs’ nickel cornerback job.
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