Moving to fill their need for a veteran insurance policy at quarterback, the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday night reached a contract agreement in principle with unrestricted free agent Anthony Wright, ESPN.com has learned.
A seven-year veteran who played the last four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Wright will sign a one-year contract. Financial details were not yet available, but it is believed the contract will pay Wright a base salary in the seven-figure range and provide him the opportunity to earn more through incentives.
Barring an extension, Wright will be eligible for unrestricted free agency again next spring.
The addition of Wright is critical for the Bengals, given that starting quarterback Carson Palmer continues to rehabilitate from January surgery to repair two torn tendons in his left knee and that he may not be ready for the beginning of the regular season. Palmer and Bengals officials have reiterated that his recovery is on pace and that there have been no setbacks, but there is still no firm timetable for his return to the field. The injury to Palmer occurred in the first quarter of a wild-card playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cincinnati officials decided to sign Wright, 30, after considering several other options. The Bengals met with a number of candidates earlier in the free-agency period and were also involved in trade talks aimed at acquiring Joey Harrington from the Detroit Lions. In recent weeks, the Bengals seemed to focus on veteran journeyman Jamie Martin as a possibility before opting to sign Wright.
The Bengals have two other quarterbacks on the roster, Doug Johnson and Craig Krenzel, and both have limited starting experience. But with the possibility remaining that Palmer could miss the first month of the 2006 season, Cincinnati coaches and executives wanted a No. 2 quarterback with more experience. The team actually met with Wright in Cincinnati three weeks ago and kept him on its radar.
In 24 appearances, including 19 starts, Wright has completed 328-of-595 passes for 3,547 yards, with 11 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions. The former South Carolina star started seven games in 2005 when Ravens starter Kyle Boller suffered a foot injury and completed 164-of-266 passes for 1,582 yards, with six touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
Wright has a very strong but sometimes erratic arm and good running skills. Originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 1999, Wright moved to the Dallas Cowboys in 2000 and then to the Ravens in 2002.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.