Russell Shepard signed with the Eagles as a UDFA. That didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. He didn’t have a great career at LSU and wasn’t likely to be drafted, but was worth bringing to camp to see if he could make it in the NFL.
“I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard told Moscona. “Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the 6th 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.”
There are a couple of problems with this. First, players can’t “take themselves off the draft board”. Any team that has a pick can take any un-picked player they want. Players don’t have the right to say no. Players can refuse to sign or report to the new team, but the team then controls the player’s rights for the next year.
Second, players can’t sign with teams as UDFAs during the draft.
So what happened? Every year teams start calling prospects in the 6th and 7th rounds to talk to them about signing as UDFAs. I’m not sure of the specific rules as to how much negotiating is allowed. Teams know what to say and how aggressive they can be.
Chip Kelly got on the phone with Shepard to discuss the situation with him. As PFT said:
The host asked for clarification, and Shepard gave it.
“I signed with them before the draft was over,” Shepard said, explaining that after he fell through round five he decided to focus on the Eagles. Shepard believes he’ll play receiver, running back, and Wildcat quarterback in Philly’s offense, and that he’ll return kicks and punts and play gunner on the punt team.
Shepard also said that Eagles coach Chip Kelly personally called Shepard at the beginning of the sixth round to explain that the Eagles couldn’t draft him because the team had lost some picks via the trade up to get quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of round four.
There is no way the Eagles got Shepard to sign a contract during the draft. That would just be ludicrous. Shepard has never gone through a process like this before. I don’t think he understands the power of the phrase “I signed with them”. I think he made a loose oral commitment, but that’s it.
As far as Shepard telling this to other NFL teams, they were calling him for the same reason…to talk about a UDFA deal. They may have mentioned drafting him, but again…this is something teams do every year. They tell kids “Look, we want to draft you, but if we can’t do that, we’d love to sign you as a UDFA.” All the kid normally hears is that a team wants to draft him.
Any team that wanted Russell Shepard could have taken him. Simple as that.
Of course, Florio always goes for the inflammatory angle.
If this is all true, Kelly and the Eagles could be losing some more draft picks.
Yeah, if the Eagles did sign Shepard, that would be a punishable offense. Getting the kid to agree to sign with you as a UDFA after the draft is a whole other story. That is completely common and wouldn’t be a big deal at all.
I cannot believe that a smart GM like Howie Roseman would fax/email a contract to a kid to get signed during the draft. Chip Kelly did talk to him on the phone, but Chip knows nothing about contracts. He didn’t send the kid anything. Chip’s job was simply to recruit Shepard to the Eagles. And it sounds like he did a heckuva job.
We’ll see what happens, but it sure doesn’t sound like the Eagles did anything wrong. If there is anything to be learned from this, I would say it is that Russell Shepard doesn’t have a bright future as a contract attorney.
From Russell himself
It was just a agreement calm down people didn’t become official till the next day actually .. Lol calm down
— Russell Shepard Jr.. (@LSUShep10) May 1, 2013