Sterling Shepard

NFL Contract Details: Rookies, Andrews, Shepard

Normally, the details of rookie contract signings don’t draw much note from the media. Most facets of the rookie contract are not up for negotiation, so by the book numbers don’t tend to interest the NFL world. Lately, though, NFL teams have gotten creative with how they deal with rookie deals, usually rewarding first- and second-round picks with guaranteed money.

Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 noted three second-round picks whose deals were reported recently. New Commanders cornerback Mike Sainristil out of Michigan’s rookie deal will see the base salaries of his 2024 and 2025 seasons fully guaranteed and $897K of $1.5MM guaranteed from his 2026 salary. Dolphins rookie offensive tackle Patrick Paul from Houston will see similar guarantees. All of his base salary for 2024 and 2025 will be guaranteed along with $413K of his 2026 salary worth $1.42MM. Lastly, Cowboys rookie pass rusher out of Western Michigan, Marshawn Kneeland, will see his first two years fully guaranteed, as well. Kneeland will also see $322K of his 2026 base salary (worth a total of $1.42MM) guaranteed.

Here are some other details from recent contracts around the NFL:

  • We recently saw the Patriots grant center David Andrews a raise in a new extension. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe gives us further details on the new contract. He notes that Andrews was guaranteed $1.75MM of his $5MM for 2024. He also reports that the deal will reduce Andrews’ cap impact next year from $8.43MM to $6.68MM.
  • The Buccaneers recently signed former Giants receiver Sterling Shepard to a one-year, $1.38MM deal. Wilson of KPRC2 tells us that Shepard will be able to earn a $50K roster bonus if he’s on the active roster by Week 1 of the season. He’ll also have the opportunity to earn an additional $6,911 per game in active roster bonuses for a potential season total of $117,500.

WR Sterling Shepard Addresses Bucs Deal

Sterling Shepard will not be with the Giants in 2024, but he will attempt to continue his career with the Buccaneers. The veteran wideout agreed to a Tampa Bay deal on Thursday which came together in relatively short order.

While in conversation with veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson, Shepard explained that quarterback Baker Mayfield reached out earlier this week to see if he was prepared to play another season in the NFL. The two were teammates at Oklahoma, and a reunion was one of the scenarios Shepard was willing to consider in the event he committed to suiting up for the 2024 campaign.

The 31-year-old noted that he “turned done other opportunities” before a potential Bucs deal came on his radar. Mayfield informed Shepard that his name was being floated by Tampa Bay with respect to interest, which paved the way for the latter’s agent to reach out. A tryout was arranged, and Shepard’s performance earned him a contract and the opportunity to carve out a role on Tampa’s receiver depth chart.

Mike Evans – who signed a two-year deal including $29MM fully guaranteed this offseason – remains the Buccaneers’ top option in the passing game. Fellow Pro Bowler Chris Godwin is under contract for one more year, although his future is less certain at the moment. Tampa Bay also has a pair of recent draft investments (2023 sixth-rounder Trey Palmer and 2024 third-rounder Jalen McMillan) set to play a role on offense this year.

Shepard will look to earn playing time as part of that group. The former second-rounder had a consistent New York tenure from 2016-20, but injuries limited him to 10 games across the next two campaigns. Last season, he occupied a minor role on a Giants team transitioning to younger options at the receiver spot. Shepard will now have an unexpected opportunity to re-build his value to an extent while playing with Mayfield for the first time since 2015.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Shepard said (via Jared and Paul Schwartz of the New York Post).“I can’t say I wanted to experience that, I always wanted to be a Giant but I’m not mad at it, man. It’s a really good situation, they have a really good football team, really talented football team and I get to be reunited with my boy and get to play with him a little bit. I’m excited about it.”

Bucs, WR Sterling Shepard Agree To Deal

After eight years in New York, Sterling Shepard is set to join a new team for the first time in his career. The veteran wideout has an agreement in place with the Buccaneers, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports.

To little surprise, Garafolo notes this will be a one-year pact. Many free agents still on the market this deep into the offseason take on deals of that length as they attempt to use the summer as a means of carving out a roster spot. In Shepard’s case, doing so would give Tampa Bay an experienced pass-catching option. He will receive $1.21MM on the veteran salary benefit, Greg Auman of Fox Sports adds.

The 31-year-old has played 90 games, including 74 starts. Shepard proved to be a consistent producer with the Giants, recording between 586 and 872 yards each year from 2016-20. He was a favorite of both Eli Manning and Daniel Jones, drawing at least 83 targets every season during that span. Injuries have proven to be a hindrance since then, however.

Shepard suffered an Achilles tear in December 2021, limiting him to seven games. That was followed by a torn ACL early in the 2022 campaign, which led to further missed time and minimal production. The Giants’ longest-tenured player entered last offseason on the roster bubble after signing another pact for the veteran’s minimum. Shepard played 15 games in 2023, but he made just 10 catches; New York elected to go in a different direction this year at the WR spot.

Now, a reunion with quarterback Baker Mayfield is in store. He and Shepard were teammates at Oklahoma, and strong play with a familiar face during training camp could allow the latter to secure a spot on the depth chart. Tampa Bay has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in place for at least one more season, and the team also rosters Trey Palmer along with third-round rookie Jalen McMillan.

Shortly after moving on from returner Deven Thompkins, the Bucs added Cody Thompson to the receiver mix. Shepard will be competing with the latter for reps during the summer as he attempts to rebound from the missed time and underwhelming totals of the past three years. Remaining healthy in 2024 would go a long way to meeting both goals while also helping his free agent stock.

Giants Considering Starting Role For WR Jalin Hyatt; Sterling Shepard On Roster Bubble?

When the Giants look to repeat their success from last season in 2023, all eyes will understandably be on quarterback Daniel Jones given his sizeable extension signed in March. The team’s new-look receiving corps will be a key determining factor in their offensive improvement, though, meaning training camp developments amongst their pass-catchers are worth watching closely.

New York entered the offseason in need of an established playmaker in the passing game, and they acquired one in the form of Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. The former Raven and Raider has impressed since being traded to New York, and he is expected to operate as the focal point of the Giants’ passing game moving forward. At the wide receiver spot, though, plenty is yet to be determined.

New York declined to make a sizeable splash on the open market, with their biggest moves being the addition of Parris Campbell and re-signing of Darius Slayton. During the draft, they added one of the class’ more intriguing prospects, third-rounder Jalin Hyatt. The latter was one of several WR targets for the Giants in April, and the team was prepared to use its second-round selection on the speedster.

Hyatt found himself on the third-string offense for much of the spring, but things have changed since then. The Tennessee alum is now seeing reps with the starters, as noted by Dan Duggan of The Athletic (subscription required). Hyatt, the 2022 Biletnikoff winner as college football’s top receiver, recorded 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns in the Volunteers’ high-octane offense, but questions about his ability to transition from that scheme to the NFL had tempered his 2023 expectations. Now, though, signficant playing time appears to be in the cards.

The same cannot be said of the Giants’ longest-tenured player. Sterling Shepard finds himself on the roster bubble, Duggan notes. The 30-year-old suffered an ACL tear in 2022, which limited him to just three games played and added further to his history of signficant injuries. He was brought back on a low-cost deal, but the Giants would incur no financial penalty if they elected to include him among the final roster cuts.

Shepard is currently behind Cole Beasley on the depth chart, Duggan adds, which is certainly concerning with respect to the former’s job security. Beasley avoided a second retirement by heading to New York and reuniting with Brian Daboll in the process. The current Giants head coach served as the Bills’ offensive coordinator during Beasley’s most productive seasons, but expectations are still low given the latter’s age (34) and lack of playing time last season.

Preseason will go a long way in settling the WR pecking order in New York. The fact that Hyatt has come a long way toward a starting role, and that Shepard has work to do simply to make the roster, however, are notable storylines to follow as the rest of the summer plays out.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/30/23

Here are the minor moves around the league to wrap up the weekend:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Igwebuike, the former safety-turned-running back, likely won’t have a role in a crowded running backs room that currently includes rookie top-ten pick Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson. He does have some experience on kick return, where he could compete with Patterson and Avery Williams for a role.

The Rams added some quality, experienced depth today in Freeman. While he’s failed to reach the success he found as a primary backup in his first two seasons, Freeman should have plenty of tread on the tires at only 27 years old with minimal usage over the past three years. Behind starter Cam Akers, Los Angeles only has second-year Kyren Williams and rookie sixth-rounder Zach Evans, so bringing in an experienced backup like Freeman should be beneficial.

The Giants add two depth pieces back to their beat-up receiving corps. Getting them back into the fold will be beneficial for training camp. Meanwhile, across the way, new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers will get to work with his old teammate, Cobb, once again.

The retirement of Pottebaum comes as a bit of a shock so early into camp. The Iowa-product was a part of Pittsburgh’s small, seven-man undrafted free agent class this year. Not only that, but heading into camp, Pottebaum was also the only fullback listed on the roster. He was in attendance for the Steelers’ first week of training camp, as well, but now appears to be on his way out. This doesn’t leave Pittsburgh completely high and dry as the team was already exploring the option of utilizing tight end Connor Heyward in a role more similar to what he played in college. Heyward could earn a much larger role in his sophomore season by taking on a few more snaps at fullback.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/25/23

With a number of teams preparing for the start of training camp, a long list of players were placed on inactive lists today. We’ve compiled all of those and today’s other minor moves below:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Free Agents

Isaiah Wilson hasn’t had an NFL gig since he was released by the Giants in January of 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the free agent lineman was slapped with a three-game suspension, but it’s uncertain what led to the temporary ban. Wilson was a first-round pick by the Titans in 2020 but got into only one game with Tennessee before getting shipped off to Miami. He was waived by Miami after showing up late to his team physical, and his practice squad stint with New York only lasted one season.

Max Garcia is an experienced addition to the Saints OL room, with the veteran having most recently started seven of his 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2022. The 31-year-old has 59 games of starting experience, although Pro Football Focus was iffy on his production last year (63rd among 77 qualifying offensive guards).

Following a three-year stint in Cleveland, Terrance Mitchell has spent the past two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He got into 14 games (13 starts) for the Texans in 2021, finishing with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He spent the 2022 season with the Titans, finishing with 39 tackles in 11 games (five starts). 49ers fifth-round pick Darrell Luter Jr. is set to miss some time with a knee injury, providing Mitchell with an opportunity during training camp.

Giants WR Sterling Shepard Aiming For Week 1 Return

The Giants’ 2023 offense will feature a number of new pass-catchers, including several different faces in the wide receiving corps. That unit will still feature Sterling Shepard, though, perhaps as early as Week 1 of the regular season.

The veteran signed a one-year deal to remain in New York this offseason, a commitment on the team’s part to keep their longest-tenured player in the fold. Shepard’s 2022 campaign was limited to just three games due a torn ACL. He is currently rehabbing the injury, the latest in a long line in that regard which has hurt the team’s passing game and his financial value. His remarks on his recovery paint an encouraging picture, though.

“I’m right on schedule where I wanted to be, a little bit ahead,” the 30-year-old said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post“So that’s always good. I’m just trying to take it day by day and just focus on getting back to 100 percent.”

At full health, the former second-rounder has been a key member of New York’s passing game. Shepard received at least 83 targets in each of his first five seasons, though that figure dropped dramatically in 2021 and ’22 given his major injuries (including an Achilles tear in the former campaign). The team’s work to boost its aerial attack this offseason should cut further into Shepard’s workload.

The Giants traded for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, a move which will give newly-extended quarterback Daniel Jones a proven producer in the middle of the field. On the perimeter, free agent signings Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder represent one-year investments at the WR spot. They, along with third-round rookie Jalin Hyatt, will give Shepard competition for playing time upon his return. The timing of that remains to be seen, but if the latter remains on his current track it could come as early as the season opener.

“My goal is to be ready for the season, so whatever that takes is what I’m going to try to do, but I’m also not going to rush it,” Shepard said. “You get to that time and I’m not feeling right, then that’s just what it’s going to be.”

Giants To Re-Sign WR Sterling Shepard

4:07pm: A tweet from Shepard himself suggests that a deal is now in place, albeit one which marks a step down from his previous compensation. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports, to little surprise, that the Giants have signed the receiver to a one-year pact worth the veteran’s minimum (Twitter link).

2:17pm: The Giants have already been busy this offseason by retaining two pillars of their offense. Another veteran member of the unit will likely be in place for 2023, as well. New York is expected to re-sign wideout Sterling Shepard, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link).

The 30-year-old entered the 2022 season as the Giants’ lonest-tenured player, making him a veteran presence relied upon both on and off the field. His career has been marred by a number of injuries, however, including an ACL tear which ended his season in Week 3 this year. That was a disappointing end to his contact year, and marked a threat to his playing future.

Shepard has also dealt with an Achilles tear previously in his career, and has been able to put together a fully healthy campaign just twice in his seven seasons in the Big Apple. When on the field, he has been a consistent producer, however, and one who has been leaned on by multiple Giants QBs. Shepard has drawn at least 83 targets in a season five times.

The former second-rounder agreed to a restructured contract last offseason which made 2022 the final season of his deal. That move included a pay cut, something which, coupled with his ACL tear, will no doubt keep this new contract short on term and compensation. It will nevertheless allow him to continue his Giants career while giving the team a familiar face in the receiving corps.

New York’s pass-catchers were not a celebrated group at full strength to begin the season, and several of them suffered major injuries as the season went on. Shepard will best be suited to fill a complimentary role alongside the recently re-signed Isaiah Hodgins as the Giants aim to become more efficient through the air in 2023. Their offense will, of course, feature both quarterback Daniel Jones after he signed a long-term deal and running back Saquon Barkley, who will play this coming season on the franchise tag in the absence of a new pact of his own.

Shepard has a well-known relationship with free agent wideout Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants have been linked to a reunion with the latter this offseason, and were one of several teams in attendance for his workout conducted on Friday. Signing Beckham and Shepard would in no way preclude the team from targeting a wideout with their top pick in the upcoming draft, but it would give their offense more veterans as they transition into an era of Jones and Barkley being more expensive than in the beginning of their careers.

Giants Re-Sign WR Isaiah Hodgins

The Giants have been busy re-signing some of their exclusive rights free agents this week. The biggest of those names re-signed with the team Thursday.

Isaiah Hodgins, who went from waiver claim to the team’s most reliable stretch-run wide receiver, re-signed for the 2023 season. The Giants still have two more years of control with Hodgins, who is not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2025. This is likely a one-year agreement, tabling this matter to restricted free agency in 2024.

Evolving from the “Minor NFL Transactions” space, Hodgins made a quick assimilation from Bills reserve to Daniel Jones‘ go-to guy. A former Brian Daboll charge in Buffalo, Hodgins caught four passes in the Bills’ Week 5 blowout of the Steelers and played for the team against the Chiefs the following week. Those cameos did not provide much indication of where his season would go.

Hodgins, 24, finished with 37 receptions for 392 yards and four touchdowns — almost all of those numbers coming as a Giant — and filled a void for a team that had seen its once-intriguing receiver situation turn into a borderline emergency. Season-ending injuries to Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson, a trade of Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay becoming one of the worst free agent signings in recent NFL history left Darius Slayton as the last man standing. Hodgins, whom the Bills waived on November 1, did well to fill in the gaps and should be a notable cog for the 2023 Giants as well.

A second-generation NFLer, Hodgins caught eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ last-second loss to the Vikings in Week 17. Two weeks later, the 6-foot-4 pass catcher totaled eight receptions for 105 yards and a score to help the Giants upset the Vikes in the franchise’s first playoff win in 11 years.

Shepard’s restructured contract voided this week, and Slayton is on track for unrestricted free agency. Golladay will soon be released. The Giants are expected to pursue free agent wide receivers next month, but Hodgins will almost definitely factor into the team’s equation next season.

Latest On Odell Beckham Jr.

6:10pm: Adding further detail to Beckham’s visitation schedule, Anderson reports that the three-time Pro Bowler will meet with the Giants before heading to Dallas (Twitter link). In between, he is expected to meet with the Bills. Anderson adds that Beckham and his camp remain in conversation with the both the Chiefs and Ravens as he continues to draw significant interest from around the league.

3:30pm: The Cowboys and Giants are about to face off against each other on the field, but they are also in competition with respect to free agent Odell Beckham JrThe high-profile wideout is thought to be down to the NFC East rivals with respect to his decision on where to sign.

That decision is expected to come soon, but Beckham’s health is obviously a sticking point in negotiations. He tore his ACL during last season’s Super Bowl, leading to widespread expectation that a lengthy absence to begin 2022 would ensue. That could extend beyond the immediate future, however; FOX Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano reports that there is “considerable doubt” around the NFL that Beckham will be able to suit up at any point this season.

That could explain the slow-moving process by which the 30-year-old is weighing his options. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets that the Cowboys are expecting a visit from Beckham in early December, with a different team hosting him sometime before then. That represents at least a slight shift in the expected timeline for a decision to be made; Beckham had previously been reportedly seeking to find his next home by the end of this month.

Dallas has consistently been the most vocal team while pitching Beckham to choose them over a shortlist of other suitors (which includes the Giants but also, at least recently, the Bills, Chiefs and 49ers). Continuing along those lines, quarterback Dak Prescott has been personally involved in recruiting Beckham, as noted (on Twitter) by Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The latter has made it known on multiple occasions that mutual interest exists between he and the Cowboys.

Members of the Giants are also taking part in the bidding war for Beckham’s services, however. Injured wideout Sterling Shepard has been in conversation with him on an everyday basis, as detailed by Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

“I talk to him every day, but we don’t talk about [his decision] too much,” Shepard said. “Obviously he knows that we want him here. He would love to be here. But everything has to play out for that to happen… And I understand that.”

The Giants’ WR room was far from highly-touted to begin the year, and the latest major injury suffered this past week (rookie Wan’Dale Robinson‘s torn ACL) leaves the unit severely shorthanded. Beckham could fill a significant void by reuniting with the Giants, though the same remains true of the Cowboys in that regard. Both teams will have a slightly clearer picture of their postseason outlook after today’s game, and could have a prized acquisition not long after.