It’s no secret that the New York Giants have one of the more crowded wide receivers rooms in football. Not because the position is oozing with talent, although they are a solid group, but more because of the similarities between many of their top contributors, namely Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard.
While both players offer tremendous production working out of the slot, their skillset is a bit repetitive. Combine this with the fact that the Giants committed $21M-plus just one year ago to Shepard, who is four years the junior of Tate, and the latter may be on his way out of New York quicker than some may have thought.
This is certainly the case if you take Pro Football Focus’ Andrew Erickson’s word for it, who recently placed the veteran pass-catcher amongst the NFL’s top trade candidates for the 2020 season.
Tate is no stranger to switching teams — The Eagles traded for the prolific slot receiver in 2018, and the Giants signed him in free agency last offseason. New York has a potential out in Tate’s contract for the 2021 season, so the veteran could be a hot commodity on the trade block for teams that need a wide receiver.
Tate Remains a Dominant Slot Receiver, But it May Not Matter
The potential out in Tate’s contract following the season would free up an extra $6 million in cap space for Big Blue. The move has been lauded by many as a legitimate and somewhat expected outcome, with age being a key cog in their thinking. However, don’t let the fact that Tate is on the wrong side of 30 deter you from the fact that he’s still one of the league’s very best at what he does, as noted by Erickson.
Even at 31, Tate is still an effective receiver, especially in the slot where his yards after the catch per reception (5.4) ranked sixth in 2019 among receivers with at least 40 targets.
To further piggyback on Tate’s brilliance from the slot, only Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Chris Godwin earned a higher grade among wide receivers when lined up in the slot a season ago, per PFF. Tate’s superb 94.5 grade tied him for second in the league alongside Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett.
With that said, Tate’s excellence may not matter, as New York’s push to get their younger, budding talents more playing time may soon overtake the need of having a savvy veteran such as Tate on the roster.
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NY Favored Shepard Previously & Will Likely Do So Moving Forward
Erickson has preemptively deemed Shepard “the clear-cut winner” of a would-be Tate trade, and it’s easy to see why. PFF highlights that Shepard’s average yards per route run (1.89) ranked 11th among receivers with at least 150 slot snaps a season ago.
While the Giants rarely had the benefit of having both Shepard and Tate on the field at the same time last year due to injury and suspension, when they did, one clearly took a backseat to the other, as we at Heavy have previously noted.
Upon Shepard’s return to the Giants’ lineup following a Week 11 bye, Tate went from averaging six receptions and 80+ receiving yards to a meager 1.25 receptions and less than 24 receiving yards per game over the next four contests. During that timeframe, Shepard hauled in 21 receptions, while Tate caught just five passes. Even with Tate missing one game over that period, the differentiating volume between Shepard and Tate are still seismic.
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