DETROIT - AUGUST 12: Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammate Eric Wright #21 after intercepting a pass from Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter of the game at Ford Field on August 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
The numbers are in, and cornerback Eric Wright's contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is worth $37.5 million over five years, including $15.5 million guaranteed according to ESPN. As with Vincent Jackson's deal, the guaranteed money is not paid out in the form of a signing bonus, but consists of his salary in the first two years of the deal. The Bucs have presumably structured Carl Nicks' deal in the same way, although in his case the first three years are likely to be guaranteed.
The advantage for the Bucs to structure contracts this way is that they can cut the cord with these free agents relatively early, without causing pro-rated bonuses to accelerate and hit the cap in one year. Giving free agents large signing bonuses can make it impossible to cut them until they're near the end of their deal, and the Bucs are avoiding this trap by avoiding signing bonuses altogether. Of course, that does mean they have to increase the value of these deals for the players to compensate them for losing some employment security.
Which brings me to the next point: I think the Buccaneers overpaid for Eric Wright's services. The sixth-year cornerback is very talented and a very smooth athlete, but he's also inconsistent - not unlike current starting cornerback Aqib Talib. The contract the Bucs gave him may not be on par with the contracts earned by Johnathan Joseph and Cortland Finnegan the past two years, but it is not far off, making this
The value of Wright's contract also essentially guarantees him a starting spot, which means if Ronde Barber is re-signed, he will most likely be relegated to nickel duties only. If Barber is not re-signed, Wright could assume the role of slot corner on passing downs.
With Nicks' and Wright's deal, the Bucs have approximately $17.5 million in cap space left this season - assuming they cut Jeff Faine, which seems exceedingly likely. Around $6 million of that cap space will go to upcoming draft picks, while the team will also want to create a buffer to give them maneuvering room during the season. This leaves them with a likely $10 million in real spending space, although they can increase that to $16.5 million if they can trade tight end Kellen Winslow.