Buccaneers Sign Ex-Giants WR Sterling Shepard, Reunites With College QB Baker Mayfield: ‘It’s Hard Not To Smile Right Now’

Sterling Shepard will now be reunited with Baker Mayfield, his former college quarterback, after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made an addition to their wide receiver room on Thursday, signing long-time New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard.

While Shepard will be playing for a new team for the first time in his career, he is reunited with a familiar face from his college career in Tampa Bay.

Buccaneers Sign Former Giants WR Sterling Shepard

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Buccaneers and Shepard agreed to terms on a one-year deal with specifics yet to be disclosed. It ends what was an eight-season run with the Giants, who had drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

On the Buccaneers, Shepard joins a room that features a strong starting duo in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. That leaves Shepard vying for a spot behind them. Some of the names he’ll compete against include Trey Palmer, Rakim Jarrett, and rookie Jalen McMillan, among others.

Palmer likely holds the No. 3 receiver role heading into his second season. In 2023, he caught 39 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns after being taken in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

MORE: Everything You Need to Know About the Bucs’ 2024 Schedule

Then there’s Jarrett, who, like Palmer, is heading into his second season. After going undrafted in 2023, he caught just four passes for 60 yards in his rookie season.

They’re both followed by McMillan, who was a third-round pick out of Washington. He caught 164 passes for 2,143 yards and 17 touchdowns in four college seasons.

Shepard Reunited With Baker Mayfield

Another intriguing aspect of Shepard joining the Buccaneers is his reunion with quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom he played with in college. It was only one season, but the two were together at Oklahoma in 2015, when Shepard had the best season of his college tenure and Mayfield had his breakout campaign.

For Mayfield, it was his first year at Oklahoma after transferring from Texas Tech. He threw for 3,700 yards, 36 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. For Shepard, it was his senior season, one in which he played with NFL aspirations. He ended up catching 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

If it wasn’t for Mayfield, Shepard likely doesn’t go as high as he did in 2016.

“It’s hard not to smile right now. I wasn’t expecting this,” said Shepard, according to Josina Anderson. “Three days ago, Baker texted me asking, ‘How does your body feel?’ I said, ‘I feel great. How’s the baby?’ Baker said, ‘The baby is good.’ Then Baker asked me, ‘Man, you think you got one more in you?’”

“I said, ‘It just has to be right with everything I’ve got going on with my family because I’ve already turned down other opportunities,'” said Shepard. “But I’ve been kind of thinking about it when I run outside every day and lift … Then Baker said, ‘Well, have your agent reach out because I know they threw your name out around here the other day.’”

“So my agent hit them up. The Bucs wanted me to fly out the next day,” said Shepard. “I strapped my cleats on and hit that workout like I’ve been running routes all my life. The rest is history … I’m so happy right now. I get to be with my brother again.”

Shepard also added that he’ll be back for the team’s mandatory minicamp after getting together with Odell Beckham Jr. to train. “This is so crazy man, my whole mode just changed 180,” said Shepard.

Revisiting Shepard’s Career

Shepard, now 31 years old, has caught 372 passes for 4,095 yards and 23 touchdowns in his NFL career. He added 186 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground. His best season came in 2018 when he caught 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns.

He was also named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2016 after posting 65 receptions for 683 yards and eight touchdowns.

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Contrarily, his worst season came in 2023, when he caught just 10 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. He also had just 13 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown in 2022. A big reason for the decline, however, was injuries. First, in 2021, he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, followed by an ACL tear in 2022.

Now, with the Buccaneers, he hopes to return healthy and regain his production from the late 2010s, if not surpass it.

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