The 49ers gave Eric Wright his latest second chance for the same reason the Bucs gave him so many. Wright plays cornerback, a position of increasing importance as the run-pass pendulum swings more and more toward seven-on-seven in pads.
The Buccaneers, who signed Wright to a five-year, $35.7 million deal last year in large part because of the position he plays, escaped $7.75 million in guaranteed pay for 2013 after his Adderall suspension and then converted the remaining four years into a one-season, $1.5 million deal. After Wright’s latest off-field incident, coach Greg Schiano had no options. If he didn’t move on from Wright, Schiano’s effort to infuse into the locker room a higher degree of discipline would have been undermined, severely.
The Bucs have now taken the risk that so many teams who give skilled players multiple second chances prefer to avoid. Specifically, the Buccaneers’ decision to dump Wright for a conditional draft pick could provide the wake up call that the player, a second-round pick six years ago, desperately needs.
The willingness of the 49ers to trade for Wright, whose indiscretions include the very type of PED suspension for which coach Jim Harbaugh needled the Seahawks last month, underscores the importance of the position. G.M. Trent Baalke, who has a reputation in league circles for being willing to round up talented receivers and cornerbacks, didn’t hesitate to welcome Wright onto the team, warts and all. (It doesn’t hurt that offensive consultant Eric Mangini coached Wright for two seasons in Cleveland.
If/when Wright passes his physical, the 49ers will have nine players at perhaps their biggest position of weakness. And at $1.5 million for 2013, Wright would be a bargain if he makes it onto the final roster.
Cornerbacks take on an even greater importance in the NFC West, given the pass catchers now possessed by Seattle, St. Louis, and Arizona. If being run out of Tampa and sent to a Super Bowl contender gets Wright’s attention, he could help the 49ers become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to follow a Super Bowl loss with a Super Bowl win.