Eric Wright Signs with Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Deal Analysis and Grade

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IMarch 14, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04:  Wide receiver Robert Meachem #17 of the New Orleans Saints runs past cornerback Eric Wright #21 of the Detroit Lions after a catch for a 67 yard touchdown at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With receiver Vincent Jackson signed, sealed and delivered, and guard Carl Nicks in town for a visit that may win over his services, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's busiest teams to start free agency.

On Wednesday, the second official day of the free agency period, the Bucs made the first splash.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Tampa Bay signed free-agent cornerback Eric Wright to a five-year deal early Wednesday.

Wright was one of the top cornerbacks left on the market after Cortland Finnegan (St. Louis Rams) and Carlos Rogers (re-signed with San Francisco 49ers) were signed yesterday, and Brandon Carr (Dallas Cowboys) is closing in on a new deal.

Cornerback was one of the Buccaneers' top needs coming into the offseason, as Aqib Talib continues to face mounting legal issues and Ronde Barber is 37 years old and in the twilight of his career. Very little talent surfaces on the roster behind Talib and Barber.

While personnel is one issue, so was production last season. The stats weren't pretty for the Bucs' secondary in 2011.

Tampa Bay allowed 30 touchdown passes and a 97.2 passer rating last season, both of which ranked the Buccaneers in the bottom-5 of the NFL. They also gave up an eye-opening 49 passing plays of over 20 yards.

Adding Wright, 26, should help in both areas.

The former Detroit Lion had arguably his best season in 2011, starting all 16 games at cornerback with four interceptions, 74 tackles, one forced fumble and 16 passes defensed. In five NFL seasons, Wright has 71 starts, 13 interceptions and three forced fumbles. 

Pro Football Focus, a site that grades every player on every play, wasn't as impressed with Wright's 2011 season.

He graded out as the 105th best cornerback, mostly because he allowed a whopping 79 catches for 879 yards and five scores last season and tallied eight penalties and 14 missed tackles. Opposing quarterbacks had a 84.1 passer rating throwing his way in 2011.

Talib (25) is facing legal issues to start the 2012 season.
Talib (25) is facing legal issues to start the 2012 season.J. Meric/Getty Images

Despite some of the struggles he had at times last season, Wright still represents a marked improvement over what the Buccaneers offered at cornerback in 2011. And it's more than possible that Tampa Bay isn't done at that position. 

With the No. 5 overall pick in April's draft, the Buccaneers could still take LSU's Morris Claiborne, who many consider the top cornerback available in the 2012 draft. Several analysts, including Bucs reporter Jenna Laine and FOX Sports' Brian Billick, believe the Bucs will still look hard at Claiborne at No. 5 overall.

While we don't have the exact contract numbers from Wright's deal—making it hard to give a fair assessment on the signing—this is still a move that upgrades the Bucs' cornerback position in terms of both depth and talent.

In today's NFL, and especially in the NFC South, you need at least three straight-quality cornerbacks. If the Bucs can get Barber to come back for another year and draft Claiborne, they'll be set at that increasingly vital position for years to come.

Grade: B