Sterling Shepard agrees to team-friendly deal to remain a Giant
The longest tenured player on the Giants roster will be back for a seventh season in 2022.
Sterling Shepard agreed to a restructured contract on Thursday that will significantly lower his base salary for the coming season and void the final year of his old deal in 2023, sources confirmed to Newsday. The move not only allows the 2016 second-round draft pick to remain with the Giants but will substantially drop his salary cap number which was going to be an untenable $12.495 million.
Shepard was due to earn $8.475 million in base salary for 2022. The new base salary was unavailable as of Thursday evening but figured to be around a quarter of what he was due with the ability to earn some of it back in incentives. The voided year also gives him the ability to hit free agency after this season for a potentially larger and longer contract with the Giants or elsewhere if he can stay healthy and have a productive year.
Coming off a season in which he played just seven games due to injuries and missed the final three after a torn Achilles, Shepard would almost certainly have been cut by the Giants had he not agreed to the new contract. That move would have saved the Giants $4.5 million against the cap. Still rehabbing the Achilles injury, Shepard is aiming to be cleared to return at the start of training camp, which likely would have meant waiting until late in the summer to sign with another team. Instead of that uncertainty he decided to remain with the only team he has ever known and be part of a rebuilding effort, providing quarterback Daniel Jones at least one very trusted and familiar target in the offense.
In a win-win deal, Shepard gets stability and familiarity while the Giants get relief against the cap and a player who, when healthy, has shown he can be a viable playmaker for them.
Shepard is one of a few veterans whose contracts need to be reworked or expunged in order for the Giants to get below the NFL salary cap by the start of the league year next Wednesday and also reach new general manager Joe Schoen’s goal of trimming $40 million from the ledger. The Giants were $7.6 million over the cap before the Shepard deal.
The Giants have another paycut offer on the table for linebacker Blake Martinez, who is working to come back from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2021 season. Martinez is due to earn $8.425 million in base salary and count for $14.025 million against the cap in 2022. Releasing him would save the Giants $8.525 million against the cap.
Cornerback James Bradberry is another player whose current salary structure does not fit with the current fiscal realities the team faces and the Giants will likely try to find a trade partner for him and his $13.4 million salary in 2022 that will count for more than $21.8 million against the cap. Unlike Shepard and Martinez who are returning from injury with little leverage, Bradberry is unlikely to accept any pay cut and may force the Giants to trade or release him. If the Giants wind up doing that they would save $12.1 million against the cap while carrying $9.7 million in dead money. The Giants could also restructure Bradberry’s contract with an extension beyond this season, but Schoen said last week at the NFL Combine that doing so for any player would be a "last resort."
Dixon cut. The Giants announced the release of punter Riley Dixon, who struggled in 2021. His departure will save the Giants $2.8 million against the salary cap.