Updated: 1:00 p.m.
Wright has 20 career TD passes in 19 career starts. (Getty Images)
Two days after working out Tony Banks and weeks after negotiating with Jamie Martin, the Bengals went with a quarterback sneak of sorts when they opted for a bit of a surprise in former Cowboy and Raven Anthony Wright as the newest backup candidate for Carson Palmer.
The Bengals made it official Friday, signing Wright to a one-year deal that gives Cincinnati a 30-year-old veteran who has helped lead his team to a division title and has a deep-ball arm with 43 career passes of 20 yards and beyond.
Wright joins Craig Krenzel and Doug Johnson in the derby to be the club's quarterback early in the season if Palmer's reconstructed left knee isn't ready. Wright has the upper hand with the experience the Bengals seek since the No. 2 quarterback spot no longer has Jon Kitna's 79 career starts.
While Johnson and Krenzel didn't throw a pass last season, Wright set career-highs in games (nine), yards (1,582), attempts (266), (164) and completion percentage (61.7) in going 2-5 as a starter. In the last three seasons in Baltimore, Wright has made 14 of his 19 career starts. Johnson (11) and Krenzel (5) have just 16 NFL starts between them, and Wright threw a career-high nine touchdown passes and had a career-best 72.3 passer rating in 2003 when he made seven starts and helped the Ravens to the AFC North title.
The 6-1, 215-pound Wright, heading into his eighth season, looks to be a match in the Bengals' vertical game with a powerful arm. He has nine career passes of at least 40 yards, and can give defenses problems with an ability to run when a play breaks down.
When looking at the backup quarterbacks available last week, one Bengal said, "There are times Wright would be able to get you a first down by just running."
Wright has run for 20 first downs in his career on 75 rushes for 234 yards. The Bengals kept him out of the end zone last year in Baltimore in their 21-9 win over the Ravens, but Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said Wednesday night, "He didn't have the weapons he'll have now.
"All I really know about him is that he played for Dallas and Baltimore. We'll make him look good. That's the idea. If we need him, we're going to make him succeed. But it might not be him. It could be Doug or Craig or him. Or Carson might be back. We'll just play and let those guys excel."
Wright gives the Bengals the fourth quarterback they wanted for the coaching sessions.
Tom Mills, the agent for Martin, said his client was never comfortable reaching a deal with the Bengals that didn't have much of a signing bonus and was close to minimum salary. They felt that wasn't much protection for Martin in guarding against a release at the end of training camp. Martin, 36, has visited Seattle and New Orleans recently, but Mills said his client isn't going to uproot his family for a minimum deal.
With the NFL Draft next weekend and coaching sessions starting in three weeks, the Bengals clearly wanted someone and they kept emphasizing experience. In comparison to Martin, Wright has won eight starts, Martin has eight starts.
"I think the Bengals were looking at paying somebody in the minimum range because of what they had budgeted," Mills said. "And the way they've signed their own players, I can see it from their perspective."
With Palmer four months removed from signing a $118 million deal, the Bengals can't throw a lot more money at the position, although Wright probably is making more than minimum, considering he's coming off a year he made in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.
Wright becomes the fourth free agent to join the fold this season, joining safety Dexter Jackson, wide receiver Antonio Chatman, and defensive tackle Sam Adams.