Released Dolphins DT Wright claimed by Bills

Updated: May 3, 2007, 3:07 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Moved to tears by former Dolphins coach Nick Saban two years ago, defensive tackle Manuel (Manny) Wright is now moving, period, having been claimed on waivers by the Buffalo Bills after he was released by Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

Buffalo was one of two teams to submit a waiver claim for Wright and was awarded the former Southern California tackle by virtue of having a poorer record than the Cincinnati Bengals, the other club that claimed him, in 2006.

Wright, 23, joins a crowded but relatively young tackle depth chart in Buffalo that includes Larry Tripplett, Darwin Walker, Tim Anderson, John McCargo, Kyle Williams and Jason Jefferson. But given the difficulty in finding viable tackles, Bills officials felt that Wright is a player at whom they want to get a better look.

The Bills acquired Walker, the most senior member of the tackle corps, in the March trade that sent two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Wright, who left the Dolphins last summer after citing a personality conflict with Saban and an ongoing battle with depression, sat out the entire 2006 season. He returned this spring for the start of the team's offseason conditioning program. But he was out of shape and simply did not fit into the plans of first-year coach Cam Cameron.

When the Dolphins chose defensive tackle Paul Soliai of Utah in the fourth round of the draft on Sunday, it essentially sealed Wright's departure.

Wright, who turned 23 in April, still has plenty of time to fulfill his enormous physical potential. Whether he does or not could depend on his frame of mind and his commitment, the latter of which he lacked under Saban's stewardship. There is no denying, however, that Wright has NFL-level ability.

Wright left the Dolphins last August, returned home to Southern California, and asked to be traded, a request Miami officials denied. Instead, he was placed on the reserve list, so that the Dolphins retained his rights without him counting against their roster, and spent the season taking classes at Southern California.

Miami used a fifth-round choice in the 2005 supplemental draft to select Wright, an underachiever during his career at Southern California, but a player with undeniably rare physical skills. He signed a four-year contract that included a $190,000 signing bonus.

Early in training camp that summer, after a practice in which he was reluctant to participate because he claimed he was experiencing back problems, Wright was lectured by Saban while leaving the field. Cameras captured Wright using his uniform jersey to dab away tears.

In his rookie season, Wright played sparingly, appearing in only four games, and registering four tackles and one sack.

He reported for minicamps in 2006 overweight, and admitted he had gained 20 pounds because he could not resist his mother's home cooking. Saban said early in training camp last summer that he still felt Wright could be a force in the league. But in practices, Wright did not stand out, and was not challenging for meaningful playing time on a unit that needed one of its young tackles to step up.

Wright said at the time that part of his sluggishness was a side-effect of antidepressants prescribed for him.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com