The 49ers on Friday added to their crowded stable of cornerbacks after trading for Eric Wright, reportedly sending a 2014 late-round draft pick to the Buccaneers in exchange. Wright, 27, had 34 tackles and one interception (a pick-six) in 10 games last season.
The team is clearly serious about improving its pass defense, which struggled at times last year. But this is still an interesting move on multiple levels. Let’s look!
First, Wright has had several incidents off the field. In the last 12 months, he’s had two DUI-related offenses, including a misdemeanor suspicion of DUI in LA as recently as last week. An earlier charge of felony DUI also in LA last July was eventually dropped. Wright certainly isn’t the first 49ers player to be caught boozy behind the wheel in the last 18 months (Aldon Smith, to name another). Last season, Wright served one of those suspicious “Adderall” suspensions for four games, as well (no, he was not playing for the Seahawks). So, it’s odd the Niners would be willing to bring on a player with such a checkered history while Jim Harbaugh is intent on running a clean ship.
The 49ers have also further complicated their logjam at corner. The Niners’ cornerback tally is now up to nine. That includes their top three corners from a year ago — Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver. Nnamdi Asomugha has also been thrown into the mix. Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, reserves from last year’s squad, also figure into the equation, as well. Who starts? Who’s in the rotation? Who potentially gets cut before the season begins? You could probably pencil in Brown, the team’s best cover corner, as one starter. But it looks like a major camp battle is brewing for the other spot. You could argue that’s good a good thing in the sense that competition brings out the best in some people. However, what does it say about the 49ers’ confidence in their current crop of corners that a week before training camp they’re bringing in another guy to compete?
It’s also a curious move given that Wright doesn’t help the Niners’ long-term situation at the position. Wright is one of five 49ers cornerbacks whose contract is up after this season. Wright originally signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the Buccaneers last season, but, realizing they were on the books for $35 million to Eric Wright, the Bucs restructured the contract in April, voiding the final three years of his deal and shrinking his salary this year to $1.5 million (that’s never a good sign). Brown, Asomugha, Brock and Cox (restricted) also have deals expiring next offseason. That would leave the 49ers with two unreliable players as their top two corners under contract next season: Rogers, who has trouble with faster receivers and is not getting any younger at 32, and Chris Culliver, who is painfully mistake-prone (see: Super Bowl).