Sterling Shepard of the Giants stiff-arms Byron Jones of the...

Sterling Shepard of the Giants stiff-arms Byron Jones of the Cowboys after making a catch at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 30, 2018.

Sterling Shepard was always seen as the wingman to Odell Beckham Jr., a less celebrated, less audacious, less attention-grabbing sidekick. Beckham even used to call him “Young Shep” as if he were a protégé rather than a peer.

Now, though, Beckham is gone and Shepard is poised to become the cornerstone of the Giants’ wide receiver position for the foreseeable future.

The team is close to finalizing a four-year extension worth $41 million with Shepard, a source confirmed. NFL Network was first to report the pending agreement. Shepard, 26, wasn’t due to become a free agent until after the 2019 season, but the Giants clearly want his on-field production and locker room presence to stick around for a while.

The pending signing comes about a month after Beckham was traded to the Browns. Since then they signed free agent Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million deal and brought back just about all of the receivers who were on the roster last year, including Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman and Russell Shepard. And now they are hitching themselves to Sterling Shepard for the long haul.

In the three seasons since the Giants picked him in the second round of the 2016 draft, Shepard has caught 190 passes for 2,286 yards and 14 touchdowns. He missed five games in 2017 with an injury but played in all 16 games in 2016 and 2018.

There were other teams reportedly interested in Shepard, either via trade or by waiting for him to hit the market after the upcoming season. Unlike with Beckham, the Giants seem to appreciate Shepard’s on- and off-the-field contributions. They see him as a receiver who can play in the slot and on the outside, as well as a skilled blocker.

When the Giants signed Tate, who was seen as a replacement for Beckham, Tate was asked about playing alongside Shepard. “That guy, he’s a baller,” Tate said. “He’s a playmaker.”

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