The 49ers decision to add cornerback Eric Wright to the mix via trade adds to an already full group in the secondary. I did some research on Wright, and had a chance to speak to a pair of bloggers to get some thoughts on Wright's potential role with the 49ers. I spoke with Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation, and Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit. I figured those were Wright's last two stops, so it made sense to get both their thoughts on him. Additionally, Wright was playing on a one-year deal with the Lions, which is what he is on with the 49ers.
First, Sander from Bucs Nation:
Wright's career with the Bucs was plagued with minor and not-so-minor issues that kept cropping up. He was never fully healthy, went through a DUI arrest, lost four games to a PED suspension and lost large portions of games due to nagging injuries. Coupled with a massive contract, Wright was a pretty big free agency bust -- but he's not a bad player, and he's certainly worth the $1.5 million contract he's currently signed to.
Wright's athletic, quick out of his break and has excellent ball skills. He has the speed to hang with receivers down the field. He does get beat more often than you'd like, in part because he loses too many jump-ball battles. His tackling needs some work, although he's not bad for a cornerback. Despite that he dos have the ability to be an effective slot cornerback. Overall he's an above average starter, if he can stay healthy and out of trouble off the field.
Second, Sean from Pride of Detroit:
Much like the situation he is in now, Eric Wright joined the Lions at a time when he really needed to prove his critics wrong. He had a rough ending to his time in Cleveland because of his play on the field, and he elected to take a one-year deal with the Lions in hopes of getting a bigger payday down the road. This worked out quite well, as Wright was solid at cornerback for the Lions. He, along with Chris Houston, brought some stability to a position that had been lacking it for quite some time, and he was a part of the Lions team that ended the franchise's playoff drought.
I will say, nobody really understood why the Buccaneers gave him a five-year deal worth $37.5 million in 2012. The move was a giant head-scratcher, and the Bucs are quite lucky that Wright gave them an out by getting suspended. I think he has the potential to be an above-average cornerback in the right situation, especially on a "prove it" type of deal, but he's just not worth $7.5 million a year. His new contract reflects that, and much like his deal with the Lions, this seems like a low risk type of move that could pay dividends for the 49ers.
Sean also sent along an interesting article from DetroitLions.com from early 2012 that discussed the Lions interest in Wright as a nickel cornerback. Wright ended up leaving Detroit a month later, but it is an interesting discussion of his nickel work.
"He's pretty good inside because he's physical and can tackle," [GM Martin] Mayhew said when asked if Wright is better inside or outside. "Inside, there's a lot going on. You have to be keyed in to your run keys and pass keys, so there's a lot more happening inside.
"You have a lot of different responsibilities. You're blitzing one time, you may be in man coverage, sometimes you run with motion, sometimes you don't, so there's a lot more thought process that goes on inside and he handled that pretty well for us."
Wright is an instinctive player and seems to be much more comfortable working in the middle of the field.
It seems likely that Wright will get a lot of opportunities in the slot against Carlos Rogers. Vic Fangio is a fan of Rogers' work in the slot, but if a younger, potentially more athletic cornerback can do a better job, changes are going to happen.
I followed up with Sander about Wright's work last year, and while he did play some slot, he ended up spending more time outside in part because the Bucs did not face a lot of great slot receivers. Coming to San Francisco, that will not quite be the case. Just within the division, the 49ers will face the likes of Tavon Austin and Percy Harvin. The slot corner will be as important as anybody in the secondary some weeks.