The San Francisco 49ers, already deep at the cornerback position, may soon add another to their active roster. Eric Wright, recently cleared to practice from the NFI list, could be activated to the 49ers’ 53-man roster shortly. Wright would join Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Tramaine Brock, Nnamdi Asomugha, Darryl Morris, and Perrish Cox as part of the NFL’s 8th-ranked pass defense. Can this seventh-year player, with 14 interceptions and 360 tackles in his career, contribute to the 49ers or will personal issues keep rearing their head?
Wright, who shares his name with another former 49ers cornerback, grew up in the Hunters Point area close to Candlestick Park dreaming of playing for the team. In college, his off-the-field problems overshadowed his on- the-field talent, however. Wright attended USC for two years until he was accused of sexual assault. Although the charges were eventually dropped, he then transferred to UNLV where he sat out one year and played one year before declaring for the NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns selected Wright in the second round of the 2007 draft despite his past issues. Without those issues, many thought Wright could have been a first round pick because of his size (5’10” and 200 pounds) and speed, and his skills in man to man coverage.
His first few seasons in the NFL were relatively problem- free. In 2011, Wright signed with the Detroit Lions and started all 16 games, making 74 tackles and 4 interceptions. Subsequently, Wright signed a huge deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 worth $37.5 million over five years. That season, the NFL suspended Wright four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He reportedly tested positive for Adderall. That same year Wright was also arrested for a DUI but the case was dropped. Wright was then arrested for a second DUI in 2013. Shortly after this second arrest, the Buccaneers traded Wright to the 49ers. However, after Wright failed his physical, the trade was voided, and the Buccaneers released Wright. The reasons for his physical failure have not been reported but he did have an Achilles injury in 2012.
After the 49ers lost Chris Culliver to a torn ACL in training camp this season, the team signed Wright to a one-year contract. Shortly afterwards, the 49ers placed him on the NFI list for unidentified reasons. General manager Trent Baalke said at the time of Wright’s signing that Wright was “tending to a personal matter.” After being cleared to practice this month from the NFI list, Wright himself talked about having “personal responsibilities” to handle but that he was healthy and ready to play. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has said that Wright would have to earn a roster spot and reportedly he has been doing well in practice.
Activating Wright would prompt many questions for the 49ers. Chief among those questions: which player would be cut to make room for Wright on the roster? Asomugha could be expendable given the level of Brock’s play recently. Another question would be whether Wright will face any jail time or punishment by the league for his 2013 DUI arrest. Based on statements he has made recently, Wright seems ready to put his past behind him and move forward with the 49ers. The 49ers could give him that opportunity any day now.
Sara DeBord is an NFL writer for www.footballandfutbol.com and www.baysportsreport.com.