NEW ORLEANS, LA —Jeremy Shockey caught more passes for more yards as a rookie — the one season when New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was his offensive coordinator in New York—than any other.
The Giants, meanwhile, proved they didn’t need their disgruntled star tight end to pull off one of the most stunning playoff runs in NFL history, winning three postseason contests on the road and then beating previously undefeated New England in the Super Bowl—all while the injured Shockey watched from afar.
So the Giants sought to do both themselves and Shockey a favor on Monday, cutting ties with the four-time Pro Bowl selection in a deal the Saints had been trying to pull off for months.
The Giants will get second- and fifth-round picks in the 2009 draft in exchange for sending Shockey to the team he wanted to play for most. The trade must be approved by the league and is contingent on Shockey passing a physical.
“I have had a relationship with coach Payton and I appreciate what he has done as a head coach,” Shockey said in a statement released by the Saints. “The Saints have a lot of weapons starting with Drew Brees and I look forward to joining my teammates at training camp. This will be a fun year.”
Shockey caught 74 passes for 894 yards and was named Rookie of the Year in 2002, his lone season working with Payton, whom he’ll be reunited with on the practice field this week.
The Saints report to training camp in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday, when Shockey will join several other tight ends on New Orleans’ roster, including last year’s starter, Eric Johnson, along with Billy Miller and Mark Campbell.
Shockey, who spent six seasons with the Giants, broke his leg against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 16.
He is known for his receiving ability more than his blocking, and was unhappy even before the injury—he was asked to block in addition to catch. Once hurt, he didn’t like the fact that much was made of the Giants winning with rookie Kevin Boss in his place.
“Jeremy brought great energy to the game every time he stepped on the field,” said Giants team president John Mara, son of the late Wellington Mara, a longtime owner of the team. “He had a close relationship with my father from the time we drafted him, and I had a couple of long conversations with Jeremy this spring and summer. From those conversations, it was apparent to me that a fresh start was the best thing for us and for Jeremy.”
The Giants, a proven winner without Shockey in the lineup, cut ties with a player who provided plenty of excitement on the field and plenty of distractions off it—once throwing a cup of ice in the stands during a playoff game in San Francisco, criticizing Giants fans for leaving a game early, blaming Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s staff for a loss in 2006 and skipping voluntary team workouts in favor an offseason program run by his agent.
The Giants also unload the remainder of a five-year, $31.2 million contract extension that Shockey signed in 2005.
Shockey had 371 catches for 4,228 yards and 27 touchdowns with the Giants. He was drafted out of Miami with the 14th overall pick in the 2002 draft.
The Giants’ comments about the trade were complimentary of Shockey as if to echo the sentiment: “No hard feelings.”
Coughlin called the departing tight end “an outstanding football player who plays the game full speed and plays the game the way it was meant to be played.”
“I wish him the best,” the coach added.
The Giants still have five tight ends, including Boss, who started the last six games of last season. The others are rookie Eric Butler, Jerome Collins, Darcy Johnson and Michael Matthews.
“We have five young kids who are all vying for the position,” Coughlin said. “The tight end position will be a very competitive position in training camp.”
The Saints have been seeking a tight end who is a downfield threat. Eric Johnson, who started 12 games for the Saints last season, caught 48 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns.
“Jeremy is a player that we are excited to have on our roster. He is someone I am familiar with as a player,” Payton said. “He brings a skill set to the position that I feel will be a tremendous benefit to our offense.”
The Saints’ offense has been among the best in the NFL during Payton’s first two seasons as coach, with Brees eclipsing 4,000 yards passing in each of them.
The hope in New Orleans is that Shockey’s addition as a receiving threat, when combined with receiver Marques Colston and Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot, will give Brees the options he needs to move the ball, no matter what defenses attempt.
Shockey’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called last season a difficult one for his client, who was looking for a change of scenery.
“He’s been one of the most successful tight ends in NFL history, but now I think he’s going to be more prolific in the Saints’ offense,” Rosenhaus said. “I don’t think Jeremy could ask for a better situation.”