The Giants made a choice: Invest long term in Sterling Shepard and move on without Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants are working on a four-year contract extension that will pay Shepard $41 million, according to a source, making him the highest-paid receiver on the team and making him a part of the future. The deal includes $21.3 million in guaranteed money. NFL Network was first to report the extension.
This deal, coming not long after the Giants shipped the superstar Beckham to the Browns — for two picks (first round and third round) in this month’s draft, plus safety Jabrill Peppers — should shout long and loud what the Giants value.
Coach Pat Shurmur quickly grew to respect what Shepard brought to the table, on and off the field. He is not the feared weapon Beckham is as a player, but the Giants clearly prefer Shepard’s even disposition and workmanlike approach, as opposed to the roller-coaster ride Beckham put the team through for five seasons.
Shepard, 25, was entering the final year of his four-year, $5.94 million rookie contract as a 2016 second-round pick out of Oklahoma. This is a new deal on top of the one year left on the original deal, meaning Shepard is under contract through the 2023 season.
The Giants, according to a source, reached out to Shepard after last season, expressing interest in securing him long term and stating they believed he was a vital part of their building process. Talks began in late February and were finalized this week.
Shepard fared better with his contract than receivers on the open market who primarily work in the slot. Jamison Crowder got a three-year, $28.5 million deal from the Jets and Adam Humphries got a four-year, $36 million contract from the Titans. The Giants see Shepard as more than a slot receiver, which is why they believe he will be able to complement Golden Tate, who often lined up in the slot in his nine years in the NFL.
In his three seasons, Shepard has 190 receptions for 2,286 yards and 14 touchdowns. Starting all 16 games for the first time, Shepard in 2018 had 66 catches for 872 yards and four touchdowns. He will start alongside the veteran Tate in 2019, with Tate signed as a free agent after Beckham was traded away. The Giants will spread the ball around far more equitably than they did when Beckham commanded the bulk of the attention and targets.
Shurmur recently told The Post he admired newly acquired guard Kevin Zeitler because of his no-nonsense approach, centered on providing for his wife and family. There is no doubt Shurmur feels the same way about Shepard, who is recently married and has a young daughter with his wife, supermodel Chanel Iman. Shepard is close friends with Beckham, considers Beckham a mentor but also paved his own path with the Giants that diverged from Beckham’s winding road.
This will be a popular signing in the Giants’ locker room. Star running back Saquon Barkley took to Twitter to express his joy, posting, “My brudda for life!!!! Now ya watch him go to work!!!!’’
There was speculation the Giants might allow Shepard to play out his contract then move on from him. Instead, they committed to him because they believe he is a starting player who can add to a winning culture.
Other than the large void created with Beckham’s departure, the wide receiver depth chart will look quite familiar for the Giants. Russell Shepard is returning — with the 28-year-old joining Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Corey Coleman as receivers with NFL experience re-signed with the team this offseason.
Russell Shepard’s biggest contribution on offense in 2018, his first year with the Giants, came in Week 13, when he hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Beckham to help trigger an overtime victory over the Bears. In 12 games, Shepard had 10 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns. His roster spot was solidified by his strong work on special teams. Shurmur also appreciated Shepard’s leadership traits. Shepard has agreed to terms on a one-year deal and will sign the contract next week, when the Giants open their offseason workout program.
Latimer, Fowler, Coleman, Russell Shepard, Jawill Davis and others will battle for roster spots and playing time. It is likely the Giants will add a receiver in the upcoming draft, as they have 12 picks and would like to get a young prospect with some size in the mix.
Published at Wed, 10 Apr 2019 22:49:42 +0000