Buffalo Bills announced the signing of often-injured center Eric Wood to a long-term contract extension through 2017. The four-year, $25.4 million deal makes Wood the fifth-highest paid center in the NFL. The deal includes a $9 million signing bonus.
On the field, Wood has been an integral part of the Bills's offensive line since he was drafted as a guard out of Louisville in the first round (28th overall) of the 2008 draft. He switched to center in 2011.
This year, he will anchor the offensive line that needs to protect first-year and franchise quarterback E.J. Manuel and lead the way for the explosive running back C.J. Spiller.
Last year, Wood was a part of the Bills line that produced the second-best rushing game in the AFC (138.6 yards per game) and held opponents to the fifth-fewest sacks in the AFC (30).
But Wood's importance to the Bills extends beyond the playing field.
"When you talk about Eric Wood, you talk about leadership," General Manager Doug Whaley said, "and with a young team...we need a leader."
Wood said all along he knew he wanted to resign with the Bills because of the infusion of young, explosive talent and the potential to make the playoffs, and he said the city of Buffalo reminds him of his hometown in Cincinnati.
The Bills resigned their center despite missing 17 games in the past four years. In a week 11 game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wood suffered a season-ending leg injury then missed two games in 2010 with an ankle injury. In 2011, he tore his ACL against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10 and missed the remainder of the season. And last year he tore his MCL in week 15 and missed the final two games.
But Wood is out to beat the injury-prone label this year and thanked the Bills for sticking by him.
"This organization has stuck by me through some times, some of the toughest times of my life. Two major injuries and I couldn't have been more thankful for how they supported me through those times and how they're still willing to give me a long-term extension," Wood said. "And hopefully I'll be able to prove that I'm not [injury prone] and hopefully get some good fortune to come in my favor."