The Giants will bring in a big name through an unusual route. They signed Jabaal Sheard off the Jaguars’ practice squad.
Sheard has 135 games’ and 103 starts’ worth of experience and is a 10th-year veteran. The edge defender caught on with the Jaguars last week, but with the Jags opting not to keep him on their active roster, the Giants completed a poaching operation.
While Jacksonville added Sheard to its active roster and used him in 15 snaps against Detroit, the team promoted Sheard using a 2020-implemented transactional tool that allows for players to revert back to teams’ practice squads after games. Sheard is set to head to New York ahead of the Giants’ Thursday game, though COVID-19 protocols will prevent him from playing against the Eagles.
Sheard, 31, spent the past three seasons as a Colts starter. He racked up 15.5 sacks during those Indianapolis seasons. He has previously played for the Browns and Patriots, collecting a Super Bowl ring with the latter franchise. A plus run defender in the recent past, Sheard has 51.5 career sacks.
The Giants have run into injury trouble at outside linebacker. They have young rushers Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter on IR. Sheard will join Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell in a now-veteran-heavy edge-rushing corps. Sheard will take the place of linebacker Tae Crowder, whom the Giants placed on IR. The seventh-round rookie’s scoop-and-score sequence helped the Giants win their first game of the season Sunday, but a hamstring injury will shelve this year’s Mr. Irrelevant for at least three games.
Sheard’s move off Jacksonville’s practice squad comes at an interesting time. Because of practice squad offensive lineman K.C. McDermott‘s positive coronavirus test, the Jaguars placed 11 more P-squad players on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Sheard is now gone as well. With new NFL protocols forcing even asymptomatic players to be on the COVID list for at least five days, the Jaguars have a decimated practice squad at present.
Sheard has 103 starts and 51.5 sacks for his career, including a recent three-year stint with the Colts. The Colts let him walk this offseason, and he didn’t generate a ton of buzz once he hit the open market. He wasn’t a world-beater in 2019, but he did grade as one of the better run defenders among edge players, per Pro Football Focus, during his first two seasons with Indy.
Despite having recent first-round picks Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson in the lineup, the Jags have just five sacks through five games. On Sunday, the front seven managed to put some pressure on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the team’s offensive shortcomings. Now 1-4, the Jaguars will look to stop their four-game slide against the Lions on Sunday.
Jabaal Sheard continued his search for a new team Tuesday. The veteran edge defender worked out for the Jaguars, marking his second meeting with a team since the season started.
The Lions met with Sheard two weeks ago but did not sign him. The former Browns, Patriots and Colts contributor has been a starter for most of his career.
Sheard has 103 starts’ worth of experience in nine NFL seasons. This includes a three-season stay as a Colts defensive end starter. He registered 15.5 sacks and 36 quarterback hits with Indianapolis. The Colts let him walk in free agency this year, and little buzz has emerged regarding the 31-year-old defender in the months since. Sheard graded as one of the better run defenders among edge players, per Pro Football Focus, during his first two seasons with the Colts.
Jacksonville lost some defensive linemen before the season and is transitioning from the acclaimed “Sacksonville” pass-rushing group it essentially disbanded this offseason. The Jaguars do have recent first-round picks Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson entrenched as their top edge rushers, however. Through four games, the Jags have just four sacks.
Sheard never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, but he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year NFL run. At this stage in his career, he profiles as a quality rotational edge player. For what it’s worth, he hasn’t had gaudy sack totals in a while — the 8.5 sacks he compiled as a rookie in 2011 remain a career high.
The 31-year-old has spent the last three years with the Colts, where he was quietly solid. In 2018, for example, he played the most snaps (813) of any defensive lineman on the team, racking up 5.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits in the process. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 36 edge defender in the NFL that year, the highest ranking of any Colts pass rusher on the ’18 squad.
Sheard’s last deal paid him $25.5MM over the course of three seasons. This time around, he’d likely come at a much cheaper rate.
Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback is critical to a team’s success in today’s NFL, and there are a number of players still languishing on the free agent market who are capable of doing just that. While the pandemic has understandably made teams leery of authorizing big-money contracts, some of the available talent can be had for a fairly minimal commitment, and it would not be surprising to see them come off the board as we get closer (hopefully) to training camp.
So let’s take a look at the best of the unsigned pass rushers.
Jadeveon Clowney: Not many players have been in the news more than Clowney this offseason. By now, everyone knows that Clowney was seeking a multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $20MM when free agency opened, but he has had to modify his demands in a big way. The Browns are believed to have two offers on the table: a one-year pact worth $15MM, and a multi-year contract worth around $12MM/year. Cleveland does not seem to be high on Clowney’s list of preferred destinations, but the club does have the makings of a postseason contender. It will be interesting to see if another team tries to top the Browns’ proposals to land a potentially game-changing talent.
Everson Griffen: Back in May, Griffen was rated as our No. 3 best available free agent, and he would be the No. 2 talent on that list today now that Cam Newtonhas signed with the Patriots. Shortly after the list was published, we heard that the Cardinals may be interested, but nothing has transpired on the Griffen front in the last six weeks. The 32-year-old showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019, and the fact that he is still unsigned may indicate that his contract demands are too high right now.
Ezekiel Ansah: The Seahawks paired Clowney with Ansah in 2019 with the hopes of creating a true two-headed pass-rushing monster. That did not exactly work out as planned, as Clowney managed just three sacksand Ansah posted 2.5 while playing in 11 games. Ansah just couldn’t regain the form that he displayed during his best years with the Lions, and it certainly seems as if he does not have another double-digit sack campaign in him. Still, he is another year removed from the shoulder injury that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, so he will surely get a chance to be a part of someone’s pass rush rotation in 2020.
Michael Bennett: Bennett wants to play in 2020, but thus far, it doesn’t sound as if there has been much interest in his services. The three-time Pro Bowler enjoyed a nine-sack effort with the Eagles in 2018, but he was traded to the Patriots in March 2019 and clashed with New England brass. In October, the Pats shipped him to the Cowboys, for whom he posted four sacks in nine games. In total, he collected 6.5 sacks last year while playing fewer snaps than he is accustomed to. He may very well start to attract more interest once camp gets underway.
Markus Golden: No one other than the incumbent Giants has expressed interest in Golden since free agency began, and it seems like the 29-year-old will be back with Big Blue in 2020. The Giants put the rarely-used UFA tender on him, which means that he will only be eligible to play for New York if he does not sign another offer prior to the start of training camp (presently scheduled for July 28). Though Golden posted 10 sacks in 2019, he did so off of just 26 pressures, which teams likely see as an unsustainable conversion rate. The UFA tender would pay Golden $4.125MM this season.
Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, and the 8.5 sacks he totaled in his rookie season in 2011 remain a career high. But he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year career, and he still looks the part of a starting DE. Fresh off a reasonably productive three-year stint with the Colts, Sheard has not yet been connected to any club this offseason.
Clay Matthews: Matthews opened the 2019 campaign with his hair on fire, posting six sacks in the first five games of the season. It appeared that the two-year, $16.75MM contract the Rams gave to the longtime Packer in March 2019 was going to pay off in a big way, but Matthews suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. He picked up two more sacks the rest of the way, and LA cut ties with him earlier this year. There have been no public reports of interest in the 34-year-old, but he could be a valuable veteran presence if deployedin the right way.
Vinny Curry: Curry has always been a situational pass rusher. Even when he started all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2017, he played in just over half of the club’s defensive snaps. His one year in Tampa Bay in 2018 was not a smashing success, but he returned to Philadelphia in 2019 to reprise his role as a player who can come in on passing downs and who represents a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. The Jets were said to be interested in him in March, and Gang Green could still use pass rushing help, but the two sides have not yet come together on an agreement.
Terrell Suggs: Suggs’ career accomplishments stand head and shoulders above those of most everyone else on this list. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and seven-time Pro Bowler has 139 career sacks to his credit, but he finally started to slow down in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and he looked the part of an aging defender during his 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2019. Arizona cut him late last season and he was scooped up by the Chiefs, which allowed him to collect his second Super Bowl ring. It’s unclear if T-Sizzle has any interest in continuing his playing career, but he has nothing left to prove.
Cameron Wake: Another player that would be higher on this list if not for his age, Wake was released by the Titans in March. The 38-year-old has said he wants to keep playing, but after a terrific run with the Dolphins from 2009-18, Wake’s one year with Tennessee did not go according to plan. He registered just two sacks in nine games and missed the final stretch of the season with a back injury. He might well be healthy now, but we are unaware of any teams with interest at this point.
Sheard experienced soreness and swelling in his knee on the first day of Indianapolis’ training camp and subsequently underwent the procedure. Head coach Frank Reich said it’s too early to definitively say Sheard will miss regular season games, but admitted it’s a possibility.
“If it does (cause him to miss time), Jabaal’s the kind of guy that you know he’s the ultimate pro, he’s going to do whatever it takes,” Reich said. “But because he’s had the procedure on his knee, we’ve just got to take it slow and be cautious and make sure that we have Jabaal for the long haul.”
Sheard, 30, played the most snaps (813) of any Colts defensive lineman in 2018, racking up 5.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits in the process. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 36 edge defender in the NFL, the highest ranking of any Indianapolis pass rusher last season. Sheard, who joined the Colts in 2017, is entering the final season of a three-year, $25.5MM contract.