It won't create big headlines, but the Panthers are close to landing a multipurpose free agent.
According to a source, all signs point to Russell Shepard signing with Carolina on Friday.
Who's Russell Shepard?
Glad you asked.
You May Not Have Heard of Him, But Plenty of Teams Have
A special teams captain-turned-legitimate receiver, Shepard reportedly had six teams calling about his services.
That group included the Bucs, who according to Pewter Report, offered Shepard $2.5 million per year to stay in Tampa.
A Dave Gettleman Special
Shepard, a Houston native, went to LSU as the country's top dual-threat quarterback. He never threw a pass in college, eventually moving to running back/receiver before becoming a full-time wideout.
After signing with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Shepard was released during final cuts. He landed on his feet in Tampa Bay, where his role(s) expanded the past four seasons.
A jack of all trades, master of none?
Yeah, that's a Dave Gettleman guy.
Philly Brown Upgrade?
Because Ted Ginn Jr. is headed to New Orleans, some could assume Shepard is pegged to fill that void. But Philly Brown is the better comparison.
The Panthers declined to give Brown a low tender of $1.797 million and earmarked that money for an upgrade. The hope is Shepard can be that guy.
At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Shepard is two inches taller but not as fast as Brown. Shepard's not slow, though. And once he had a chance to shine on offense, he grabbed it.
In his first three seasons, Shepard totaled seven receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown on 393 offensive snaps. But after injuries ravaged the Bucs' receiving corps last year, he played 432 snaps and caught 23 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns.
Granted, Brown played in a much different offense, but his numbers dropped to 27/276/1 despite 587 snaps in 2016.
Shepard's main role in Tampa was on special teams, and in Carolina, he'll join a group that includes fellow Swiss Army knife Joe Webb and the rising David Mayo.
To be clear, Shepard isn't a returner. He's a coverage guy who will partner with Colin Jones at gunner.
In 2014, Shepard finished second in the NFL in special teams tackles, racking up 14 of his 31 career tackles.
While parts of Carolina's special teams improved in 2016 (see: a league-best 18.1 yards allowed on kickoff returns), Shepard was the captain of a unit that ranked fourth in opponent punt return average.
No Hard Feelings
Shepard was involved in a notable moment during each matchup with the Panthers in 2016.
In Week 5, he jumped on a muffed punt by Ginn, who was distracted by Teddy Williams:
And in the season finale, Shepard was flattened on a crossing route by Thomas Davis:
The Bucs then showed the replay on their video boards in a move Ron Rivera called "bush league."
Even though the hit was legal, Davis apologized to Shepard after the game.
"I have a lot of respect for that man," Shepard said. "He's a veteran guy. He's done a lot of great things for this league, and as long as he apologized, we're on the same page and we move forward."