Monday, January 24, 2022

‘No Way’ Giants starting receiver returns next season

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East Rutherford sales are underway.

This off-season will bring forth a new regime hoping to revive a once-proud franchise from the depths of mediocrity. There are a handful of difficult roster decisions to make along the way. Co-owner John Mara has previously informed the media that the next general manager and head coach will make the final decision when it comes to the future of Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley “or anyone else” currently under contract with the Giants.

One player in particular who may have logged his last snap with the organization is wide receiver Sterling Shepard. The longest-serving player on the roster and sole remnant of Big Blue’s 2016 playoff team, Shepard has played in 73 games (including playoffs) with the Giants since his second-round pick from Oklahoma and led the team at two receptions in the last three seasons.

However, with a changing of the guard at the receiver position and Shepard out of contract, USA Today’s John Fennelly has a hard time imagining a scenario where the No. 3 catches passes for the Giants in the 2022 regular season.

In a Jan. 10 article detailing the eight most likely Cap casualties this offseason, Fennelly claims there is “no way” the G-Men will try Shepard next season.

“Sterling Shepard has not played a full 16-game season since 2018 due to a variety of injuries. He only appeared in seven games this year before rupturing his Achilles tendon,” Fennelly wrote. “Shepard has two years left on his four-year, $41 million contract and there’s no way the Giants are bringing him back. By releasing it before June 1st, they can save $4.5M in cap space, which would increase to $8.5M if they wait until after June 1st (which would also come with a dead cap hit of $3.995 million).

Shepard’s body wasn’t up to the rigors of an NFL season — a scenario that has long plagued him since joining the league six years ago. Which is a damn shame for a player who wanted to take his game to the next level in the final weeks of last season and the early parts of 2021. Fully combining Shepard’s performance from the last two games of 2020 with the first three healthy games this season, the former Sooners standout averaged 11 goals, 8.6 receptions and 94.4 yards per contest. He also accumulated four touchdowns in those five games — a big step up for a player who averaged just three touchdowns per season from 2017-2020.

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While Shepard is the most likely player in the G-Men’s reception corps to get his pink slip this offseason, he’s not the only notable wideout to ultimately be shown the door.

Darius Slayton was a hot name before the close last November. In fact, NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill reported that the New Orleans Saints actually asked for a trade for Slayton to offset Michael Thomas’ absence.

Fittingly, Shepard’s injuries, along with Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay, are likely why the Giants decided to stick with Slayton back then. However, with Toney and Golladay expected to feature in a new offensive scheme more suited to their abilities, the Giants no longer require Slayton’s presence.

Slayton, once noticed as one of Dave Gettleman’s few slamdunk draft picks, has had one since a 2019 campaign in which he tied Tennessee Titans star AJ Brown for most touchdowns by a rookie (eight). experienced quite a bit of success. While he increased his yardage in 2020 with a career-high 751 yards, he found the end zone five times fewer. Slayton has seen his average yards per reception fall in each of his professional seasons and comes off a highly memorable campaign in which he struggled with drops and notched career lows in receptions (26), yards (339) and touchdowns (two).

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