Turnover is underway in East Rutherford.
This offseason will birth a new regime hopeful of reigniting a once-proud franchise from the depths of mediocrity. Along the way, there’ll be a handful of difficult roster decisions to make. Co-owner John Mara has already informed the media that the next general manager and head coach will have the final call when it pertains to the futures of Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley “or anyone else” currently under contract with the Giants.
One player in particular who may have ultimately logged his last snap with the organization is wide receiver, Sterling Shepard. The longest-tenured player on the roster and the lone holdover from Big Blue’s 2016 playoff team, Shepard has appeared in 73 games (including playoffs) with the Giants since being selected in the second round out of Oklahoma, leading the team in receptions in two of the last three seasons.
However, with a changing of the guards at the receiver position and a looming out from under Shepard’s contract, USA Today’s John Fennelly finds it difficult to envision a scenario where No. 3 is catching passes for the Giants come the 2022 regular season.
Shepard Done in New York?
In a January 10 article detailing the eight most likely cap casualties this offseason, Fennelly claims there’s “no way” the G-Men run it back with Shepard next season.
“Sterling Shepard hasn’t played a complete 16-game season since 2018 due to a multitude of injuries. This year, he only appeared in seven games before blowing out his Achilles,” wrote Fennelly. “Shepard has two years left on his four-year, $41 million deal and there’s no way the Giants bring him back. By releasing him pre-June 1, they can save $4.5 million in cap space, which would increase to $8.5 million if they wait until after June 1 (that would also come with a dead cap hit of $3.995 million).”
Shepard’s body wasn’t able to hold up to the rigors of an NFL season — a scenario that has long plagued him since entering the league six years ago. Which is a damn shame for a player who looked to be taking his play to the next level over the final few weeks of last season and into the early parts of 2021. Combining Shepard’s output from the final two games of 2020 with the first three fully healthy games of this season, the former Sooners standout averaged 11 targets, 8.6 receptions and 94.4 yards per contest. Over that five-game stretch, he also amassed four touchdowns — a huge step forward for a player who averaged just three receiving touchdowns per season from 2017-2020.
The latest Giants news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Giants newsletter here!
Sign up for the Heavy on Giants Newsletter!
Other Giants WRs on the Move?
While Shepard may be the most likely player in the G-Men’s receiving corps to get his pink slip this offseason, he’s not the lone notable wideout who may ultimately be shown the door.
Darius Slayton was a hot name ahead of this past November’s trade deadline. In fact, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football reported that the New Orleans Saints actually inquired about trading for Slayton as a way to counteract the absence of Michael Thomas.
Fittingly enough, injuries to Shepard, along with Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay are likely the reason why the Giants opted to hold onto Slayton at the time. However, with Toney and Golladay expected to be featured in a new offensive scheme better suited towards their skillsets, Slayton’s presence is no longer a necessity for the Giants.
Once perceived as one of Dave Gettleman’s few slamdunk draft picks, Slayton has seen his star take quite a hit since a 2019 campaign where he tied Tennessee Titans star, A.J. Brown, for the most receiving touchdowns by a rookie (eight). While he did increase his yardage output in 2020 with a career-high 751 yards, he found the endzone five fewer times. Slayton has seen his average yards per reception dip in each of his professional seasons and is coming off a highly forgettable campaign where he struggled with drops and notched career lows in receptions (26), yards (339) and touchdowns (two).