The Chicago Bears selected safety Major Wright out of Florida in the third round, 75th overall, of the 2010 NFL Draft. He served as a backup his rookie year and was named the starter at the beginning of his sophomore campaign.
Wright was a developing player, who in 2011 and 2012 combined for 129 tackles, 15 pass breakups, seven interceptions, two touchdowns and a forced fumble. Following the 2011 season, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Wright the best-tackling safety in the league with zero missed tackles that year.
He improved on all his numbers his third season and along with Chris Conte, another solid young player, the Bears appeared to have finally stopped the safety carousel that has plagued the team for more than a decade.
Yet Wright took major steps backward last season, both in coverage and against the run. His rookie contract has expired and he'll become a free agent on March 11. We weigh the pros and cons of re-signing Wright, a once-promising player coming off a horrible campaign.
While he struggled overall, Wright wasn't a liability all season. In the first four games, he tallied 30 tackles, two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and two forced fumbles. He was playing at a fairly high level as an in-the-box safety, showing aggression against the run and when the ball was in the air.
There is no denying Wright's talent. Athletically, he's one of the top players on the roster. The problems he displayed this year were between the ears. If defensive backs coach John Hoke can re-focus Wright to better utilize his natural abilities, he should be able to quickly bounce back. At just 25 years old, Wright has plenty of time to improve.
Let's face it, Wright was arguably the worst safety in the league last season. Per PFF, receivers caught 77.8 percent of passes thrown at him and opposing quarterbacks had a 146.8 (out of a possible 158.3) passer rating when throwing at Wright. He also gave up five touchdowns and had 15 missed tackles.
He still flew around at times, and had his best game in the season finale against the Green Bay Packers, but Wright was a general liability for most of 2013. Repeat performances going forward could compromise Chicago's defense.
Hold ‘em or Fold ‘em
If Wright is willing to sign a one-year, "prove-it" deal at or near the veteran minimum ($730,000 in 2014 for a fifth-year player) then maybe the Bears take a chance on him. Wright was a good player before 2013, so giving him one more shot at a bargain-basement price isn't crazy, especially if the club signs or drafts another safety or two as competition.
Overall though, Wright was an albatross hanging around the neck of the defense last year. His play declined in accordance with the injuries around him, which exacerbated an already dire situation. His performance in 2013 was one of the top reasons the Bears were historically bad on defense last year.
If he's looking for anything more than the veteran minimum, Emery will have to part ways. Wright is too risky for a substantial investment.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.