Bucs lose key locker room and special teams guy to rival Panthers

Photo by Icon Sportswire

While Bucs fans are thrilled to finally have a bonafide game breaker deep threat WR in DeSean Jackson, another Buccaneers wide out is without much fanfare headed to a division foe, the Panthers.

Russell Shepard, one of the best special teams tacklers in the NFL, will be in Charlotte as a free agent signee. Shepard confirmed the move to several local media members Thursday night and is expected to sign on Friday.

His departure is an example that you simply cannot pay everyone what they deserve under the cap and you take risks when guys, who aren’t the stars become free agents. Shepard had become a special teams “hit man” with 32 tackles in four seasons, but bigger than that, a captain and locker room leader.

And, over the course of the last two seasons in Dirk Koetter’s new offense, Shepard kept developing as a pass catcher, too. In fact, in 2016, he caught 23 passes many of them in key third down situations and also had two TDs.

But, clearly the double whammy for Buccaneers fans is where he’s headed. It’s one thing to leave a void, but to go to the Panthers and be ready to play twice a year, against you? It’s truly a punch to the gut.

Carolina was briefly on the look for a wide receiver after losing Ted Ginn in another rival swap, to the Saints on Thursday. Shepard is not be nearly as fast as Ginn, but is reliable and could flourish some with Cam Newton throwing to him occasionally.

Look. Buc fans should be giddy about getting one of the premier big play receivers in football in DeSean Jackson to sign, but for the hardcore fans and observers of this team, Shepard’s loss is a blow. Guys who play hard, for not big cash and make plays when needed, aren’t easy to come by.

And not easy to see in Teal, White and Black, now, especially.

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