Eric Wright has become a bit of a whipping boy for Buccaneers fans, and there are longstanding reports that he is to be released dating back to his four-game suspension for Adderall last season. That suspension saw his guaranteed money void. He missed six games last season in total -- although one came because the playoffs were out of reach and the Bucs did not want to risk injury. And yet, the Buccaneers still like him -- and they appear to see him as part of their future.
"He has been a reliable player,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of Wright, who became a lot less reliable after he was suspended four games for Adderall use last year.
"He had some things that kind of tripped him up (last year), but he has been reliable - not only here but in other places where coaches on our staff have been with him. If I didn't feel there was good there, we would have already separated from him, but there is good there.''
All of that is correct, of course. Wright doesn't seem like a bad guy in any way, but he did get hit with a four-game suspension last season, supposedly for taking Adderall. He also struggled with minor injuries, which caused him to miss another game, and at times got burnt on defense. And yet, he was the team's second-best cornerback in 2012 behind only the now traded Aqib Talib.
The big issue here isn't really Wright's play, or perhaps even his off-field concerns. The talk of a "Buccaneer man" seems to be mostly fluff when it comes to off-field stuff, anyway. No, the issue is his contract. He has no guaranteed money left, and the Buccaneers are not going to keep him at his $7.75 million price tag this season. That's simply too much money to pay for Wright after his issues last season -- and the Bucs have a lot of leverage in this situation, because he has no guaranteed money left on his contract.
All of this will depend on the Darrelle Revis situation and the pay cut Wright is willing to take. Wright could decide to check out the market instead, daring the Buccaneers to release him. He could still come back at that point, but the Bucs would have to compete with other teams for the right to re-sign him -- which could work out to either side's benefit. The cornerback market may have been lackluster, good players still get paid a decent amount of money.
Revis factors into this in another way. If the Bucs do trade for him, and it does seem inevitable, then the Bucs will be faced with a massive cap hit and contract, which could take up anywhere from $12 to $16 million per season. If the Bucs do sign Revis, then, paying Wright a lot of money starts to make less and less sense and they may not be able to outbid other cornerback-needy teams, such as the Falcons or Dolphins.
Yes, the Bucs still have a lot of cap space, but Revis would eat up more than half of that, they need to keep around $4 million in cap room for rookies and a buffer to go into the season. Plus, they will carry over any leftover cap room to next season, when their salary cap situation looks less rosy. In effect, they may be able to keep Wright if they sign Revis -- but only at a vastly reduced salary, closer to $4 million per year than the $7.5 million per year his contract gives him.
And yet, despite all of that, keeping Wright on the roster at a reduced salary is absolutely the team's best option. Because, like it or not, he is a solid football player with some explosive playmaking ability. Whether or not the Bucs get Revis, he is an upgrade over everyone else on the roster -- and he becomes indispensable if the Buccaneers do not find a way to trade for Darrelle Revis.