Sterling Shepard had his contract voided less than a month ago, but the wide receiver’s career with the New York Giants isn’t over. Not when the team intends to bring the “longtime” pass-catcher back on a reworked contract, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:
Fowler reported it’s likely to be a one-year contract, with Shepard confident he’ll be ready to play by the start of the 2023 NFL season. Shepard’s an effective receiver when healthy, but he missed all-but three games last season after tearing his ACL against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bringing Shepard back into the fold would be a necessary first step to bolstering the Giants’ options at wideout. His return could also help the Giants’ chances of signing Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency.
Shepard is close friends with OBJ, who hosted a private workout for interested teams, a meeting the Giants attended, on Friday, March 10.
Giants Still Need Versatile Veteran
Shepard’s played just 10 games in the last two years, which looked like ample justification for voiding his deal on Wednesday, February 15, per Dan Duggan of The Athletic. Although, Duggan did correctly speculate the Giants could bring him back:
While there are legitimate concerns about Shepard’s ability to stay healthy, he’s been a useful and versatile playmaker whenever he’s made it onto the field. The player drafted in the second round by the Giants in 2016 has made an impact as a receiver, runner and kick returner.
Shepard’s best season was 2018, when he caught 66 passes for 872 yards, rushed three times for 33 and gained 27 yards returning kicks. The Giants need Shepard’s aptitude as a receiver most, particularly his ability to work from the slot.
Shepard plays his best football on inside routes, but he’s not merely a short-range target. Instead, Shepard can stretch the field from the slot, the way he did for this 65-yard touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 last season:
With Shepard and second-year pro Wan’Dale Robinson, who also tore his ACL against the Detroit Lions in Week 11, healthy again, the Giants will have two dynamic inside targets for quarterback Daniel Jones.
Shepard and Robinson will help once they’re fully recovered, but what Jones really needs is a marquee playmaker on the outside. That’s where Shepard’s buddy might enter the picture.
Returning Giant Could Be Key for OBJ Deal
Beckham’s workout “generated buzz,” according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
Naturally, the Giants should have the inside track to a player who won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with Big Blue in 2014. Beckham produced numbers for the Giants, but the stronger ties that bind come from his friendships with players like Shepard and running back Saquon Barkley.
Shepard told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News back in November how Beckham “would love” to suit up for the Giants once again. Beckham also visited with Shepard during October, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson:
Barkley joined Shepard in reminding Beckham how well he’s thought of with the Giants, telling reporters in November, “I don’t have to tweet at him. He knows how I feel. He knows how we feel in this locker room.”
Putting Beckham on the outside and adding a vertical threat from a draft class loaded at receiver would give Jones all the weapons he needs to take the next step up as a passer. So would having a trusted target like Shepard around to still act as a valuable weapon over the middle.