What the Saints are getting in free agent defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd

It didn’t take the New Orleans Saints long to start making moves in free agency, with former New York Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd agreeing to terms on a three-year contract Wednesday morning. He’s going to be an important player in the Saints’ interior rotation in the fall, so we should get to know him a bit better.

To get an idea of what the Saints are adding by signing Shepherd, I reached out to Jets Wire managing editor Billy Riccette (who you can follow on Twitter here). He shared some valuable insight on the newest member of the black and gold:

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Saints Wire: Shepherd has been in the game a long time. Did he have a leadership role in the Jets locker room? How important was his veteran presence for that team?

Riccette: I’d say he had a good veteran presence especially since he was the longest tenured position player on the Jets (only long snapper Thomas Hennesy has been with the team longer). Quinnen Williams is obviously the leader there, but Shepherd was always a solid piece in that rotation and in the defensive line room.

AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Saints Wire: The Saints guaranteed Shepherd more than $10 million, so he’s probably starting for them this year. Can he play an every-down role or did the Jets limit him to running or passing downs?

Riccette: I do think Shepherd can play every down. He wasn’t asked to do a lot of pass-rushing thanks to the rotation of the defensive line, but I do believe he has the ability to rush the passer. He’s a great run-stuffer and in a division that now just added Miles Sanders in Carolina, that is going to be key for the Saints. I’m still a fan of Shepherd and have been since his college days.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Saints Wire: Which game would you say showed Shepherd at his best last season? What should fans watch for to get an idea of him as a player?

Riccette: Shepherd did have a sack in the first game against New England, but if you want to get more of a look at him, he had three tackles and played about half of the snaps in Week 15 against the Lions. Shepherd is just a good-sized clogger in the middle at 6-foot-4, 315. He will be 30 years old in October, but he doesn’t have a lot of miles logged and should get a chance to spread his wings in New Orleans.

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Saints Wire: Lastly, how big of a loss is this for New York? Was Shepherd a big part of their pass-rush plan, or was he seen as more of a replacement-level player?

Riccette: As it stands now, it’s a tough loss for the Jets because they don’t have a lot of depth at the position. They not only lost him but also lost Sheldon Rankins to the Texans, so after Quinnen Williams, it’s Solomon Thomas and then a few practice squad players, though I am intrigued by Tanzel Smart. The Jets will fill those holes behind Williams, so it’s not a brutal loss but he was still a nice depth piece for the team.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire