Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who was getting ready to enter the final year of his rookie deal, won’t have to worry about the uncertainties that come with free agency.
Instead, Shepard and the Giants agreed to a four-year contract extension worth up to $41 million, according to the NFL Network and confirmed by a source, who also confirmed an ESPN report that Shepard’s new deal includes $21.3 million in guaranteed money.
Shepard’s deal, which he’s expected to sign ahead of the team’s start to the off-season program beginning April 15, makes him one of the highest paid slot receivers in the league.
The Giants’ second-round pick in 2016 has 190 career receptions for 2,286 yards and 14 touchdowns and is coming off career-highs in receptions (66) and yards (872).
Shepard is under contract through 2023. He was due to count for $1,892,445 against the 2019 salary cap, of which $1.26 million was his base salary.
Assuming Shepard received a signing bonus, that amount will prorate starting this year and through the end of the contract. It’s also possible the Giants lowered Shepard’s base salary to the NFL minimum of $805,000 given his new cash windfall received at signing.
The extending of Shepard’s contract also quelled some early swirling rumors, including a report by the NFL Network that the Patriots were interested in acquiring Shepard.
Instead, Shepard, now the longest-tenured Giants receiver, will lead a group that is mostly the same unit as what the Giants fielded last year, the exceptions being Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded to the Browns last month, and the addition of veteran Golden Tate.
Speaking of Tate, his signing of a four-year, $37.5 million deal last month didn’t do much to quell rumors that the Giants were looking to move on from Shepard, who was thought to be virtually the same player as Tate as far as their skill sets were concerned.
However, head coach Pat Shurmur, at the recent NFL league meetings in Phoenix, offered a glimpse into how he might be planning to deploy both Shepard and Tate in the Giants offense.
“I think when you play offense, you try and get the most out of the players you have,” Shurmur said. “You have to use their skillsets. I do believe that it takes a village to spread the ball around. The quarterback gets the ball out. We have a lot of fine players on offense. We will spread the ball.”
Although it’s early, it sounds as though Shurmur, who said Tate and Shepard have similar skills, is going to deploy both players both in the slot and on the perimeter.
“(Tate’s) skill set is like Sterling’s,” Shurmur said. “When we run the ball, they are gritty blockers, and you can play them on the edge and in the slot. Then, when you throw the ball, they have both done good work in the slot and have had production outside. You can play both guys wherever.”
Although it appears the Giants seem set at receiver—they’ve also brought back Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Corey Coleman—and at tight end, where they have Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson, and Garrett Dickerson, don’t expect the Giants to stand pat.
“Our plan is to add more good football players,” Shurmur said. “The diet that doesn’t sell is to eat less and exercise more. No one will buy that book. We are just trying to add more good players.
“We shined a bright light on some positions of need a year ago, and we are going to address some of those needs.”