WR Edell Shepherd first caught the Bucs' eye on the practice field in 2003
Though it was fully expected, it is still good news: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have re-signed wide receiver Edell Shepherd.
Shepherd, technically a second-year pro, was an exclusive rights free agent who received a tender offer and thus could only negotiate with the Buccaneers. He is the second of three Bucs in this category to sign this offseason; tackle Anthony Davis re-signed on March 30 while tight end Will Heller has yet to strike a new deal.
Shepherd has played in only three regular-season games but is nonetheless a bright prospect for the Buccaneers. Originally signed to the practice squad at the beginning of the 2003 season, Shepherd has proven to be an outstanding route-runner with good speed and sure hands. He was coming on strong during training camp last summer before a foot injury suffered in the preseason opener landed him on injured reserve.
The 6-1, 175-pound Shepherd signed with the Bucs in '03 after spending most of the 2002 season on the Chicago Bears' practice squad and the 2003 offseason in the NFL Europe League. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Bears in 2002. Shepherd was impressive enough on the Bucs' practice field to earn a late-season promotion to the active roster, and he played in the final three games of 2003, catching four passes for 38 yards.
The Bucs' confidence in Shepherd paid off when he emerged as one of the team's most impressive players in training camp the following year. However, he broke his right foot while fighting with a defensive back for a pass in the end zone during the Bucs' preseason game against Cincinnati. At the time, Head Coach Jon Gruden called it a "tough blow" for Shepherd and the team, indicating that the Bucs had high hopes for a breakout season from the young receiver.
Shepherd reported in late February that he had fully rehabilitated his right foot and was ready to take another crack at a significant role in the Buccaneers' offense. With little experience at the receiver position behind starters Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton (though a veteran signing is a distinct possibility), Shepherd will get another very real opportunity to pursue that goal.