Sterling Shepard

Giants Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson In Line To Start?

The Giants have a number of options to choose from at receiver, each of whom is more experienced than Wan’Dale Robinson. The second-round rookie is currently making a case for a starting role right away, however. 

As noted by The Athletic’s Dan Duggan (subscription required), Robinson is currently occupying a first-team role in training camp practices. The other two spots, not surprisingly, have been taken up by Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. That setup leaves a notable name in Darius Slayton relegated to backup work.

The veteran found himself in trade talks once again this offseason, one marked by the plethora of cost-cutting moves new general manager Joe Schoen was forced to make given the team’s salary cap situation. Slated to carry a charge of nearly $2.6MM this season, he could find himself amongst the team’s roster cuts if a trade partner can’t be found.

That leaves Robinson a path to significant reps early on his career, especially considering the disappointing first seasons in the Big Apple displayed by Golladay and Toney. Veteran Sterling Shepard will return for a seventh campaign after taking a pay cut this offseason, but his latest injury concern clouds his future beyond 2022. Robinson therefore faces little competition in terms of known commodities at a position of great importance to the Giants’ desired offensive turnaround.

After posting 1,445 scrimmage yards last season, the Kentucky product demonstrated his ability to produce significant numbers. The five-foot-11 slot man presents plenty of long-term potential for New York, but his inclusion with the starters ahead of Slayton in particular points to a heavier workload to begin his career than some would have expected.

Injury Updates: Packers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Colts, Giants

Packers second-round wide receiver Christian Watson was placed on the PUP before training camp opened, and ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes that the rookie could miss a chunk of training camp. Watson continues to recover from minor knee surgery that took place following minicamp.

“I think there was kind of a thought process [of] do you want to try to push through the season and finish this after the (2022) season or should we just go ahead and do it now?” said Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said. “And we just did it now. So he’ll miss a little bit of time in camp, but it’s nothing long term.

“When we invest what we invested in Christian, we’re obviously looking out for the long term. We always do. He’s a young player who’s got a big career ahead of him, so we want to make sure we protect that. It’ll be how he responds through the rehab. As soon as he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”

The Packers used the No. 34 pick on the rookie wideout. This naturally led to high expectations for the wideout, especially with Davante Adams out of the picture. The rookie has had only three opportunities to practice with Aaron Rodgers, and the wideout will miss out on chances to click with his QB during the early parts of training camp.

More injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Seahawks safety Jamal Adams underwent left shoulder surgery for the second-straight year, but he also underwent multiple finger surgeries during the offseason. Adams will be sidelined for “some time” while he gets his previously-injured hand checked out, coach Pete Carroll told ESPN’s Brady Henderson (Twitter link). “Yesterday his hand just wasn’t right, so he’s getting some opinions about it,” the coach said.
  • Jaguars running back James Robinson didn’t start training camp on PUP, but he won’t be a full participant right away, tweets ESPN’s Michael DiRocco (on Twitter). The hope is that Robinson will be fully cleared to participate in games by mid-August, meaning he could be active for the start of the regular season. Robinson tore his Achilles in Week 16 of the 2021 campaign, putting his early-season availability in doubt. Meanwhile, DiRocco notes that linebacker Devin Lloyd tweaked his hamstring during a conditioning test and will be sidelined for a few days.
  • Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard (previously Darius Leonard) was placed on PUP following offseason back surgery. The intent of the procedure was to relieve pressure on nerves in his back, and there was hope the surgery would also improve “functionality issues” in his left leg. Fortunately, Leonard said he immediately noticed a positive difference following the operation, and he said he’s focused on his rehab as training camp starts. “I’m not putting a timetable on it, but when I’m ready, you’ll see me on the field after that,” Leonard said (via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star). “I’m ready to continue with my rehab, I’m happy with where I’m at right now, and hopefully we’ll continue to go forward with this process.”
  • Giants wideout Sterling Shepard was placed on PUP as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles. According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, the goal is for Shepard to be ready for the start of the regular season, but it’s still unclear if the receiver will be ready by then. Offensive lineman Nick Gates is also on PUP as he recovers from a lower-leg fracture suffered last September. Duggan passes along that coach Brian Daboll was “surprisingly optimistic” about the status of the OL, revealing that there’s no guarantee that Gates will be forced to miss any time.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/26/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions, including a handful of notable names landing on the physically unable to perform list and the non-football injury list as teams open up camp:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

  • Released with NFI designation: WR Cody Core

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Giants Have Done “A Ton Of Work” On OT Charles Cross

The Giants, who hold the No. 5 and No. 7 overall selections in this month’s draft, are well-positioned to address two of their biggest needs — offensive tackle and edge rusher — with a top collegiate prospect. Per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post, Big Blue has done “a ton of work” on Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, one of the top OTs in the class.

Cross is not considered to be on the same level as Alabama tackle Evan Neal or NC State blocker Ikem Ekwonu in terms of overall talent, but one scouting source told Dunleavy that Neal and Cross are the best pure left tackles in the class. While all three prospects project well at right tackle, Ekwonu is better-suited to the right side, and he also has the ceiling of an elite guard.

There is a chance that Neal and Ekwonu, or at least one of the pair, will be available for the Giants when they are on the clock with the No. 5 pick. In that scenario, New York could take the highest-rated OL on its board, or it could simply opt to fill a different need, secure in the knowledge that one of those two players and/or Cross will still be there for the taking at No. 7 (assuming, of course, that a club with a Top-4 selection does not nab Cross). But if the first four picks skew towards O-linemen rather than, say, pass rushers, then new GM Joe Schoen may need to pounce on a protector for QB Daniel Jones.

If he ends up with Cross, an accomplished pass blocker who would complete a strong bookend with 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas, Schoen should be happy, regardless of which pick he uses. In 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, Cross allowed just 16 pressures.

Schoen recently passed along several injury updates on two starting-caliber players already on the roster. LB Blake Martinez (ACL) and WR Sterling Shepard (Achilles), both of whom recently accepted pay cuts, will hopefully be back in action by August, per Schoen (Twitter link via Jordan Raanan of OL Nick Gates, who started all 16 games for the Giants in 2020 but who suffered a career-threatening leg fracture in Week 2 of the 2021 season, may be ready for training camp, as Raanan tweets.

Contract Details: Reynolds, Shepard, Martinez

Here’s another detailed look at a deal done this week, as well as some information on some contract restructuring in New York:

  • Josh Reynolds, WR (Lions): Two-year, $6MM. The contract has a guaranteed amount of $2.7MM, including a $1.5MM signing bonus and the full 2022 salary of $1.2MM, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Reynolds can really see a payday in 2023. That year of his deal has a base value of $1.8MM, a $1MM roster bonus activated on the third day of the 2023 league year, and $400,000 for the year in per game active bonuses (around $23,529 per game). The deal also holds $2MM of annual incentives based on catches, yards, and touchdowns as well as an additional $2MM incentive in 2023 based on team achievements, playoffs, and stats.
  • The Giants recently came to agreements with wide receiver Sterling Shepard and linebacker Blake Martinez to restructure their contracts. The Athletic reporter Dan Duggan confirmed on Twitter that both deals are worth roughly $2.25MM in 2022 with incentives that can push the value up to about $5MM. The intention was to lower the two veterans’ cap hits and they will do that, dropping Martinez’s cap number from $14MM to about $8MM and Shepard’s number from $12.4MM to about $6.5MM.

Giants Restructure WR Sterling Shepard’s Contract

The Giants’ longest-tenured player is sticking around for at least another season. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter), the Giants have reached an agreement on a restructured deal with wideout Sterling Shepard.

While we don’t have full details on Shepard’s pay cut, we have learned that the two sides chopped a year off the player’s contract. Shepard was originally signed through the 2023 season, but Ralph Vacchiano of tweets that the restructure will see the final season wiped off that deal. As a result, 2022 will now be the final year of the receiver’s contract.

We heard recently that the Giants were asking the former second-round pick to take a significant pay cut as part of the team’s larger cost-cutting agenda. Shepard reportedly wasn’t a fan of that idea, but the two sides apparently came to a compromise. The receiver was set to earn a salary of $8.5MM next season.

When healthy, Shepard has been Daniel Jones‘ favorite target, but injury troubles (such as the torn Achilles he is currently rehabbing) have landed the wideout in this financial situation. Shepard seemed to be coming into his own in 2018 when he finished with 872 receiving yards. However, he’s missed 20 games over the past three seasons, including 10 in 2021. He ultimately finished last season with 36 receptions for 366 yards and one touchdown.

Latest On Giants’ Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram

With new management in place and a difficult cap situation to handle, there is sure to be plenty of roster turnover for the Giants in the coming days. Two of the biggest names to watch are Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, players whom the team have very different levels of interest in keeping. 

It was reported last week that the Giants are asking the former to take a significant pay cut as part of the team’s larger cost-cutting agenda. Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports, however, that the 29-year-old won’t accept the financial hit, at least to the degree the team has proposed (subscription required). His salary is currently set to be $8.5MM, but a drop all the way to the $1.1MM veteran minimum is therefore off the table.

Duggan adds that there is “mutual interest” for the former second-rounder to stay in New York, his only home in six seasons spent in the NFL. He reports that the parties “have been trying to find a middle ground” with regard to compensation so he can stay. When healthy, Shepard has been Daniel Jones‘ favorite target, but injury troubles (such as the torn Achilles he is currently rehabbing) have landed the wideout in this situation.

As for Engram, Duggan reiterates the notion that he is headed elsewhere in free agency. Whether teams view him as strictly a tight end, or as someone capable of lining up as a slot receiver will be key to how much his market develops. Duggan notes that he’s heard a wide range of possibilities for the 27-year-old in terms of the value of a new contract, from a short-term deal around $7MM or $8MM, to the longer, more valuable pacts signed by the likes of Jonnu Smith last year. Interestingly, he names the Bills as potentially being “a top suitor for Engram”.

With more work to be done to get under the cap, there are still plenty of moving parts for the Giants to handle. The situations with Shepard and Engram will go a long way to determining the rest of the team’s offseason, and in turn, their long-term roster re-tooling.

Giants Asking Sterling Shepard To Take Significant Pay Cut

As expected, more news is coming out regarding cost-cutting moves by the Giants. In this case, they are attempting to keep a key member of the offense, but at a greatly reduced cost. Per Ryan Dunleavy of The New York Post, the team is asking receiver Sterling Shepard to take “a significant pay cut”.

The team already began shedding salary yesterday, cutting tight end Kyle Rudolphthen doing the same with running back Devontae Booker. Shepard represents one of several big-name players the Giants have more difficult decisions to make with regards to solving their salary cap dilemma.

The 29-year-old is currently scheduled to have a cap hit of just under $12.5MM. Cutting him, as the team has already done and will likely do with others, however, would only create $4.5MM in savings, a consequence of the restructure done to his contract in September. For that reason, Dunleavy writes, the team is offering a new one-year pact at a reduced rate. While nothing is official regarding how much the Giants are asking Shepard to drop his $8.475MM salary by, Dunleavy reports that his compensation on a re-worked deal “is expected to be close to the league minimum”. For a veteran such as Shepard, that would amount to just over $1MM.

The longest tenured member of the Giants, Shepard has served as Daniel Jones‘ favorite target when healthy. Unfortunately for him, that hasn’t been the case often enough to justify his contract as things currently stand. He suffered a torn Achilles in December, the most significant of multiple injuries he faced in 2021. Overall, he’s played a full campaign only twice in six years, though his 2018 numbers (66 catches, 872 yards, four touchdowns) demonstrate what he’s capable of producing when he’s able to stay on the field.

Dunleavy adds that Shepard “is said to be considering the pay cut as he ponders his options”. Staying put could allow him to play his way into a new contract closer in value to the extension he signed in 2019, assuming he is able to fully recover and stay on the field. If he declines the Giants’ request, general manager Joe Schoen‘s cap gymnastics could get that much more complicated.

Giants Notes: Cap, Martinez, Shepard, Staff

The Giants doled out a few big-ticket contracts in free agency during Dave Gettleman‘s final years as GM, handing out deals to James BradberryBlake Martinez, Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. Those contracts are among those that have pushed the Giants over the projected 2022 salary cap. The Giants are more than $11MM over the cap, and GM Joe Schoen told NBC Sports’ Peter King last month he wants to clear about $40MM in cap space before the start of the new league year.

It’s a concern, and it’s real. There are going to be difficult decisions that are going to have to be made,” Schoen said recently, via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.

Some cap-casualty candidates include Martinez, Sterling Shepard and Kyle Rudolph. Despite Martinez delivering his usual high-end tackle production in 2020, the veteran linebacker suffered an ACL tear in September. Martinez might need to take a pay cut to stay, Vacchiano offers, though the 28-year-old linebacker is only attached to an $8.4MM salary. Cutting Martinez would save the Giants more than $8MM, while an expected Rudolph ouster will add $5MM to that total. As a post-June 1 cut, Shepard’s release saves nearly $9MM. Shepard is the Giants’ longest-tenured player, arriving as a second-round 2016 pick, but has battled injuries for much of his career. Bradberry serves as Big Blue’s No. 1 cornerback, though Vacchiano adds he should not be considered a lock to be part of next year’s team. A post-June 1 designation makes a Bradberry release worth $13MM. Of course, the Giants would run into a major cornerback need in the event they cut Bradberry. The ex-Panther’s three-year, $45MM deal expires after next season.

Here is the latest from the rebuilding team:

  • Schoen will not retain one of Gettlemen’s top front office lieutenants. Co-director of player personnel Mark Koncz is not coming back, per the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy (on Twitter). Koncz followed Gettleman to New York in 2017, doing so after spending nearly 25 years with the Panthers. Koncz worked with Carolina before the franchise’s 1995 debut and stayed on through a few GMs, finishing up his tenure as the Panthers’ director of pro scouting from 2000-2017.
  • More new staffers are bound for New York. The expected hire of ex-Ravens outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins indeed took place, with the Giants also hiring ex-Bills assistant John Egorugwu to coach their inside ‘backers. Egorugwu, 35, was on Sean McDermott‘s staff for four years before spending the 2021 season at Vanderbilt. The first name mentioned as a staff candidate once Don Martindale took over as Giants DC, Wilkins, 34, worked with the Ravens for 10 years and spent the past two as their outside linebackers coach.
  • The Giants are also adding to Brian Daboll‘s staff from the college ranks, hiring DeAndre Smith as their new running backs coach. Smith comes from Texas Tech and has never coached in the NFL before, spending more than 20 seasons at the college level. This move comes after the Giants offered the job to ex-Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman (on Twitter). Notre Dame just hired McCullough, who spent the 2021 season at Indiana after coaching the Chiefs’ running backs for the previous three years, for new HC Marcus Freeman’s staff.

Giants’ Sterling Shepard Tears Achilles 

Giants’ wide receiver Sterling Shepard has been officially diagnosed with a torn Achilles, per a club announcement. This will be a season-ender for Shepard, who has not played a complete season since 2018.

2021 was already an injury-riddled season for Shepard as today’s game against the Cowboys was only his second game since returning from a four-game absence caused by a quad injury. Shepard also missed three weeks in October due to a hamstring injury.

When he’s healthy, Shepard is a favorite target in the Giants’ offense and tends to be a reliable one. In his last full season, Shepard caught 66 balls for 872 yards (both career highs). In his rookie season (the only other season in which he’s played all 16 games), Shepard caught a career-high 8 touchdowns. Last year, despite missing 4 straight games early in the season, Shepard was able to match his career high for catches in a season from 2018.

So it stands to reason that his best football is still ahead of him, if he can just get and stay healthy. But, over his six seasons in the NFL, this has a been an extremely tall order for the wide receiver, with this injury putting a demonstrative period on his toughest season yet.

Tight end Evan Engram and receivers Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton will continue to get the majority of targets with Shepard and rookie first-round pick Kadarius Toney out. Former Bengals’ receiver John Ross could see an increase in snaps, as well, due to those same injuries.