INDIANAPOLIS – The contractual stalemate between the Buffalo Bills and center Eric Wood continues.
To review, word came out in late January that Wood would be unable to continue his NFL career because of a neck injury. A press conference, seemingly to announce his retirement, was called inside the team's field house, with current and former teammates, family, friends and several members of the Western New York media in attendance. Instead of announcing his retirement, however, Wood read a hastily prepared statement that never used that word, confusing all in attendance.
The issue boils down to what it always does – money. Wood is scheduled to count $8.625 million against the team's salary cap in 2018. If he is placed on the reserve/retired list before June 1, that figure would jump to $10.39 million, accounting for $2.166 million in signing bonus money already paid out and scheduled to count against the Bills' 2019 salary cap.
At issue is whether the Bills can (or want to) try and recoup a portion of that money.
"We've kind of put it on the back burner right now, because there's really nothing we can do until the league year," Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said Wednesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. "At the end of the day, we'll figure it out. We've got a lot of things going. It's not my primary concern right now. It's more, it'll be a matter of, how I want it to hit the cap at the right time. My focus is going into free agency right now and obviously the draft this week with the combine. You have to kind of flip back and forth, but there's no definitive timeline on Eric's situation."
Either way, Wood is not expected to be at center in September. One player who could be is his backup from last year, Ryan Groy. The 27-year-old stepped in at center after Wood suffered a broken leg on Monday Night Football with seven weeks remaining in the 2016 season.
"It's hard to replace a guy and a player like Eric," coach Sean McDermott said. "That said, I do have a lot of confidence – we have a lot of confidence in Ryan. He's got some skins on the wall already from his time playing, not only last year, but starting seven games in 2016."
Center has become a popular pick for the Bills since news of Wood's injury surfaced. If Groy can indeed handle the job, that would be one less need for the Bills to fill. Asked point blank if he thinks he can, McDermott said, "I do, yes."
"Just being around the young man this past season, he's got some leadership qualities about him that are important at that center position," the coach said. "He worked extremely hard, he's a physical player, so I'm confident in Ryan."