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Baker Mayfield’s former teammate from Oklahoma joins QB in Tampa

Hello, old friend.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard, a former college teammate of franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield with the Oklahoma Sooners.

On Thursday morning, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo broke the news and pointed out the reunion in Oklahoma. Shepard and the Bucs agreed to a one-year deal for an unspecified amount.

After a nearly decade-long hiatus, the ties to their days as Sooners seem as strong as ever. Only this time, they will compete alongside each other in the NFL.

Shepard and Mayfield overlapped for a year at Oklahoma in 2015 before the former declared for the draft, and they proved to be a dynamic duo.

Before taking their talents to the pros, Mayfield and Shepard dominated the Big 12. The tandem combined at or near the top of the passing/receiving statistical category every season en route to a conference championship title.

Since then, both have enjoyed respectable, if turbulent, careers since entering the league.

The Cleveland Browns spent the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on Mayfield to be their savior. Unfortunately for him and the organization, he failed to live up to the hype, but was banished after a tumultuous tenure. He has since found his permanent home in Tampa Bay. Hopefully the same can happen for Shepard.

Shepard’s problem has never been a lack of talent; his inability to stay healthy is a concern. Since being selected in the second round by the New York Giants in 2016, he has suffered a torn Achilles tendon and ACL in addition to several cuts and bruises. But when he’s available, he’s productive. And even if he isn’t, he has taken on a leadership role and is an integral voice in the locker room.

2023 was Shepard’s most sustained campaign since 2018. Yet he gradually began to disappear from New York’s offensive game plan. The long-tenured former Giants player caught 10 of his 22 targets for a modest 57 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps a change of scenery with a signal caller he’s comfortable playing with can reinvigorate Shepard as he heads into the back nine of his career. Still, competing with Tampa’s star receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for opportunities presents a daunting task for the 31-year-old.

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