The Eagles worked quickly Wednesday morning to diffuse a potentially awkward situation with undrafted rookie Russell Shepard, who made comments to a radio station following the draft that hinted at some shady draft-weekend activity by the Eagles.
Shepard, a wide receiver from Louisiana State, said in an interview on Baton Rouge radio station WNXX (via LouisianaDaily.com via
ProFootballTalk.com) that he had signed a contract with the Eagles before the draft was over, a move that – if true – would likely get the Eagles in very deep trouble with the NFL and could cost them future draft picks.
Although the Eagles denied Shepard's claims, a league spokesman said the NFL is investigating the situation.
“I signed with them before the draft was over,” Shepard told the radio 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?’ and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over, because that was the perfect fit for me.”
In reality, Shepard didn’t sign with the Eagles during the draft.
In fact, he didn’t sign with the Eagles after the draft, either.
None of the Eagles’ undrafted free agents is even scheduled to come to Philadelphia to undergo a physical until May 9. Only after they pass their physical can they sign a contract.
NFL teams aren’t allowed to talk contract specifics with draft-eligible players until the draft has ended. They are allowed to contact players and make it clear they’ll be interested if the player isn’t drafted, and that was the extent of the Eagles’ contact with Sheppard.
“Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles,” the team said in a statement released through the media relations office Wednesday morning.
“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.”
Why would Shepard tell a radio station he had signed before the draft was over?
Possibly he was embarrassed that he had gone undrafted and was trying to rationalize it by telling the radio host that it was his choice to sign with the Eagles as opposed to getting drafted in the late rounds.
But what at first glance may have appeared to be a major violation that could potentially have cost the Eagles draft picks now appears to be much ado about nothing.
An NFL spokesman said, "We are looking into it."
Shepard, a high school quarterback, played QB, receiver and running back at LSU and even did some cornerback drills at his pro day. In 49 games for the Tigers, including 14 starts, he had 733 rushing yards, 565 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.