The New York Giants officially signed Sterling Shepard to a four-year contract extension on Friday, a deal that will keep the young wide receiver in East Rutherford through 2023.
With Odell Beckham Jr. having been traded to the Cleveland Browns, the 25-year-old Shepard now becomes the Giants’ longest tenured receiver and he respects the weight that carries.
“I’m ready,” Shepard said in a statement released by the team. “With Odell going down the last two seasons (with injuries), that time definitely helped me get a grasp of what being a leader is all about, and being that lead guy in the room. I think it prepared me for this moment. I was pretty vocal anyway. I’m a pretty vocal guy. That will be no problem.
“I’m no longer a young guy. I’m a vet now. This contract says a lot, so I’m going to handle it the right way.”
Shepard also feels confident in the wide receiver room as a whole, and believes the unit is vastly underrated.
“We have no shortage of talent,” Shepard said. “Those guys are ballers and they can get the job done. When they’re put in that position, they’re always going to execute. I have all the trust in those guys.”
The addition of veteran Golden Tate should help stabilize things, but it also creates a scenario in which Shepard may have to play a bit more on the outside.
“I got to be outside a lot more at the end of last season,” Shepard said. “I can definitely see myself switching in and out. Same with Tate. He’s a similar body type, same type of guy. It’s going to be tough on defenses.”
Shepard finished the 2018 season with 66 receptions for 872 yards and scored four touchdowns, but he felt the final five games of the season better represented what he can bring to the table and what the Giants’ offense can be behind quarterback Eli Manning is capable of.
“It was a new system for us early on last season,” Shepard said. “Sometimes in a game, you’re thinking about what you have to do instead of just going out and playing your game. Having a year under our belt is huge. Now we know what the coaches expect of us. I think with everybody getting their feet wet with the system, it’s going to be a lot smoother.
“I feel we’re going to pick up right where we left off. The last five games were the best games we played in the season. We just have to fine-tune some little things. Once we do that, we’ll be fine.”