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Friday, May 31, 2013
Eight in the Box: Playing for a contract

By James Walker

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player entering a contract year on each AFC East team who must deliver in 2013:

Buffalo Bills: The Bills know that Eric Wood is a quality center. What they don’t know is if Wood is durable enough to handle the trenches for all 16 games year in and year out. The 2009 first-round draft pick is playing out the final year of his rookie contract. Wood has had multiple knee and leg injuries during his career. He has never played more than 14 games in a season during his four-year career. Wood, 28, has some wear and tear, and that should factor in when the Bills go to the negotiating table. But talented centers are hard to find. So it’s very possible that the Bills do not wait until next year. Buffalo has cap room, and Wood and Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd are two in-house players who could get contract extensions before September.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins took a calculated risk this offseason when they signed cornerback Brent Grimes. Miami signed Grimes to a one-year, "show-me" contract before he fully recovered from last season's Achilles injury. Two months later, Grimes is closer to 100 percent and making plays on the practice field. He made the Pro Bowl two years ago with the Atlanta Falcons, and the Dolphins are hoping Grimes can return close to that form. Miami was ranked 27th in pass defense last season and needs Grimes to take a leadership role and stay healthy for a full season. Veteran corners Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson are questionable starting options, and rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis still have a lot to learn.

New England Patriots: Cornerback Aqib Talib is in a similar situation as Grimes. After spending half a season with the Patriots in 2012, Talib signed a one-year extension to prove he can be the long-term solution at cornerback. Talib was clearly New England’s best cornerback last season. He has the size and athleticism to shut down opponents. However, prior off-the-field issues while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the Patriots hesitate to offer a long-term contract in March. If Talib performs well and stays out of trouble again this season, New England will have no choice but to give Talib a multiyear extension or another team will.

New York Jets: The Jets simply do not have a lot of talent. So it’s hard to pinpoint a player in the final year of his contract who must perform in order to stick around. The best I can come up with is offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse. He was taken in the second round in 2009 and is still trying to learn the NFL game. The Jets are hoping Ducasse can develop into a starting guard, but progress has been slow. If Ducasse doesn’t show anything this season, it's unlikely he will come back to New York. The Jets already drafted guard Brian Winters this year in the third round. That’s a strong warning sign for Ducasse. There are several high-priced players, like starting receiver Santonio Holmes and quarterback Mark Sanchez, who are signed beyond 2013 but could be released if they don’t perform. But as far as players in a contract year, Ducasse is one to keep an eye on.