The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to have their cornerback position set for the upcoming season, with rookie Johnthan Banks jumping into the slot alongside Darrelle Revis and Eric Wright. That situation is a little uncertain now, with Friday's surprising announcement that Tampa Bay has traded Wright to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional late-round pick in 2014.
The move qualifies as unexpected for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that restructured his contract this offseason down to one year and $1.5 million, with no guaranteed money. He had signed a five-year, $38 million deal with Tampa Bay last offseason, but a large chunk of the guaranteed money included there ($7.75 million) voided when Wright was suspended for violating the league's PED policy last season.
Wright and Tampa Bay butted heads over that loss of guaranteed money, and the Buccaneers reportedly put Wright on the trade block following the 2012 season. However, all indications were that the sides had reached an amicable enough point to last through 2013.
The decision to trade Wright instead hints that Tampa Bay may have been considering his outright release -- the return from San Francisco works out to little more than a salary dump. Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano has not hesitated to send packing players who do not fit his plan, on and off the field. Wright may have wound up in the doghouse one too many times. (Update: Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Wright was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence July 12 in Los Angeles.)
Wright's departure likely also means that the Buccaneers plan to rely heavily on Revis, who's still coming back from the ACL injury he sustained in 2012, and the rookie Banks. Of the remaining cornerbacks on the roster, Leonard Johnson saw the most action last season (594 snaps), when Tampa Bay had the NFL's worst pass defense.
San Francisco, meanwhile, now has yet another experienced player to compete in its secondary. The 27-year-old Wright already has 81 career NFL starts to his credit and, with free agency looming after the 2013 season, ought to be plenty motivated to prove himself.
His arrival in San Francisco will put pressure on Carlos Rogers and Nnamdi Asomugha. Rogers signed a four-year, $29 million contract with San Francisco last offseason, but rumors swirled after the 49ers' Super Bowl run that the organization was prepared to go in a different direction. Just $1.25 million of Rogers' 2013 salary is guaranteed.
Asomugha inked a one-year deal with the 49ers in April. But he, like Wright, has no guaranteed money coming to him -- Asomugha's contract calls for a $1.35 million base salary plus incentives, including a $225K bonus if he's on the roster for one regular-season game.
This whole situation came a bit out of left field but, in the end, San Francisco may benefit from Tampa Bay's desire to rid itself of Wright.