NFL Looking Into Russell Shepard Claims

Wide receiver Russell Shepard raised some eyebrows when he told a Louisiana radio station that the Eagles had signed him to a free-agent contract before the draft was over, which would be against the rules. The NFL is checking it out.

“Yes, we are looking into it to determine the facts,” said league spokesman Greg Aiello.

Shepard said Chip Kelly reached out to him at the beginning of the sixth round and explained that the Eagles wanted him, but were short on picks after trading away a seventh-rounder to move up and grab Matt Barkley.

“I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard told the station. “Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me ‘is it true that you’ve signed with a team already? The draft isn’t even over?’ and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over.”

The Eagles, through a statement, said Shepard’s account is off the mark.

“Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, we did come to terms on a contract with he and his agent after the draft was completed. We anticipate he, like all of the rookie free agents we have agreed to terms with, will take a physical examination upon arriving in Philadelphia prior to next week’s rookie mini-camp and then sign a contract.”

Teams are allowed to contact a player during the draft to express interest. If they are on the clock, they are permitted to discuss financial parameters with a player or his agent. They cannot negotiate a contract until the draft concludes.

Shepard said Kelly recruited him out of high school. As the draft went on, he said he decided that the Eagles would be the best fit for his versatile skill-set.  The 6-1, 195-pounder went to LSU as a dual-threat quarterback and saw time at multiple positions. He finished his career with 733 rushing yards and 565 receiving yards on 58 catches. Sheppard ran a 4.46 at his Pro Day, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com. Brandt also reported that some teams were looking at him as a defensive back.

Shepard stated that he recently had a conversation with receivers coach Bob Bicknell, who relayed that the team was already getting packages ready for him. He added that there could be an opportunity to run some Wildcat “because they are trying to take some pressure off Mike Vick. They don’t want him to get hit as much. I have an opportunity to make a lot of plays and be very involved in this offense.”

The thought of the coaches already concocting plays for an undrafted free agent seems like a stretch. It is possible his draft-day story is as well.

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