Nathan Shepherd

Saints Rework Contracts Of Derek Carr, Nathan Shepherd

After reworking Erik McCoy‘s contract earlier this week, the Saints continue to carve out cap space. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Saints have restructured quarterback Derek Carr‘s contract, opening around $23MM in cap space. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Field Yates adds that the team also restructured defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd‘s deal, clearing another $3MM in space.

[RELATED: Saints Restructure C Erik McCoy’s Contract]

Carr inked a four-year, $150MM contract with the Saints last offseason. According to Jason Fitzgerald of, the Saints likely converted the maximum ($28.79MM) of Carr’s $30MM salary into a bonus, reducing the quarterback’s cap number from $35.7MM to $12.67MM in the process.

Of course, this instant relief will have an impact on the team’s future cap sheets. Per Greg Auman of FOX Sports, this recent restructure effectively assures that Carr will be sticking around New Orleans through at least the 2025 campaign. Next offseason, the Saints will be faced with paying Carr around $40MM, or they’ll be left with an untenable $50MM in dead cap by moving on. Fitzgerald adds that the recent cap machination boosts Carr’s future cap hits by around $5.76MM per season, and his $51.46MM cap number for the 2025 campaign now ranks fifth in the NFL.

Shepherd also joined New Orleans last offseason, inking a three-year, $15MM deal. He proceeded to have a career year, compiling 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 17 starts. While Pro Football Focus wasn’t fond of his performance in 2023, they did grade him as one of the better pass-rushing interior defenders in the NFL.

When accounting for the reworked deals for Carr, Shepherd, and McCoy, the Saints have opened up around $33MM in cap space this week…and they may not be done. Fowler reported yesterday that the team is expected to also rework the contract of offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz. Even with all their recent moves, the Saints still need to do a lot of work to become cap compliant. The team entered the offseason around $83MM over the cap.

Saints To Sign DTs Khalen Saunders, Nathan Shepherd

After seeing David Onyemata join his former position coach (Ryan Nielsen) in Atlanta, New Orleans is addressing its defensive tackle spot with multiple additions.

The Saints are expected to sign both Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd,’s Tom Pelissero and’s Dianna Russini report (Twitter links). Saunders’ deal is worth up to $14.5MM over three years, Pelissero tweets.

Shepherd was one of three Jets defensive tackles to hit the open market, joining ex-Saint Sheldon Rankins and Solomon Thomas. The Jets are trying to bring Rankins back, but one of their former Day 2 picks will not join him. Shepherd, a former third-round choice, spent the past five seasons with the Jets. Also a former third-round pick, Saunders played out his rookie contract with the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.

Drafted out of Division II Fort Hays State, Shepherd worked as a rotational D-lineman in New York. The 12-game starter totaled 22 quarterback hits over the past three seasons, and although the 315-pound performer’s sack total (six) underwhelms, Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-10 pass rusher among interior linemen last season.

Saunders finished with a career-high 3.5 sacks last season, breaking through after playing just 10 games from 2020-21. A Western Illinois alum partially known for his backflip prowess, Saunders added a sack in the playoffs for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Playing alongside Chris Jones certainly did not hurt Saunders, who played a career-most 421 defensive snaps last season. PFF slotted the 324-pound player 74th overall among interior D-linemen in 2022.

Onyemata agreed to a three-year, $35MM deal with the Falcons, who hired Nielsen as their DC this offseason. The talented inside rusher, who played seven seasons with the Saints, left a void inside for the NFC South club. Saunders and Shepherd will aim to fill it.

AFC East Notes: Poyer, Becton, Jets, Patriots

Jordan Poyer continues to pursue a new contract, but that won’t keep him away from mandatory minicamp. The Bills All-Pro safety is in attendance for practice this week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

The impending free agent is seeking a new deal, and the Bills have been in communication with the player’s camp. According to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg, Poyer’s participation may be limited in a pseudo-holdout move.

“I think Jordan is in a good place mentally,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “He’s still staying in touch with his teammates, and hopefully, we’ll see him soon.”

Poyer has been a consistent starter on the Bills defense since joining the organization in 2017, missing only a pair of games. After collecting 100+ tackles between 2018 and 2020, the safety earned his first career All-Pro nod in 2021 after finishing with 93 tackles, three sacks, and five interceptions. The veteran inked a two-year extension with the organization in 2020.

More out of the AFC East:

  • The Jets could turn to a committee approach as they look to replace Jamison Crowder‘s spot at slot receiver, writes ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Many assumed that Braxton Berrios would slide into the role, but head coach Robert Saleh admitted the team is “working through it” and prefers to slide players in and out of the spot to keep things unpredictable. Elijah Moore and rookie Garrett Wilson are among the receivers who could join Berrios in the slot rotation.
  • Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd rejected a better offer to re-sign with the Jets on a one-year, $1.1MM deal, according to Cimini. Incredibly, the 2018 draft pick is the team’s longest-tenured player, and he’s earned a reputation as a hard worker and loyal player. As Cimini notes, Shepard is now the biggest player on the team with Folorunso Fatukasi gone, and that could mean the veteran will see a more significant role in run-stopping situations.
  • Jets offensive lineman Mekhi Becton made it to mandatory minicamp after having sat out previous voluntary sessions, tweets ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The lineman didn’t practice, presumably because he’s still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Meanwhile, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano writes that the player’s ability to return to the field could ultimately influence the left tackle competition between Becton and George Fant. “The faster that you can stamp ‘Hey, this is what we feel like is going to be our best going into Week 1 vs. Baltimore,’ the faster we can do that the better,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said (via Vacchiano). “I think it will play itself out fairly quickly. When we get back (for training camp), we’re rolling, we’re running the football, and we’re going to see. It’ll all play itself out.”
  • At least one “prominent” member of the Patriots offense believed the coaching staff was unprepared at the start of the team’s offseason workout, according to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus. Following Josh McDaniels move to Las Vegas, the Patriots haven’t replaced anyone as their offensive coordinator, with former ST coordinator Joe Judge and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia apparently taking on larger roles on offense. However, it sounds like the coaches are settling into roles, with Kyed describing Judge as the “passing game coordinator” and Patricia as the “running game coordinator.” Naturally, head coach Bill Belichick recently swatted away any questions about the offensive play calling. “If you’re asking about game plans, we’re months away from that — months,” Belichick said. “Months away. Months. What plays are we calling? Mini-camp plays?”

Jets To Re-Sign DT Nathan Shepherd

Nathan Shepherd is sticking around New York. The Jets are re-signing the defensive tackle, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

Shepherd was a third-round pick by the Jets in 2018, and while he’s never developed into a consistent starter with the organization, he’s still carved out a role on defense.

In four seasons with the team, Shepherd has seen time in 56 games (nine starts). That includes a 2021 campaign where he saw time in all 17 games for the Jets (one start), collecting 28 tackles and eight QB hits.

He saw time on 42 percent of his team’s defensive snaps and 30 percent of the Jets’ special teams snaps.

Jets’ Nathan Shepherd Facing Ban

Jets defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd wasn’t on the active roster for the Jets’ season opener against the Bills. As it turns out, Shepherd was left out of the game due to a pending six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, as Tom Pelissero of writes. 

When popped for PEDs, players typically say that they did not knowingly take a banned substance. That’s not the case with the 2018 third-round pick, who celebrated his 26th birthday today.

All that was going on, I was coming off of a subpar season and a new coaching staff, new playbook, new everything,” said Shepherd, a holdover from one of ex-GM Mike Maccagnan‘s last drafts in office. “In my mindset, I didn’t feel very confident with how everything had gone thus far. In my mind, I was so prepared to come into this offseason and have a successful offseason and train very hard. I felt that because of these limitations, I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I made a rash decision, an unwise decision and a selfish decision to look to certain PEDs in order to help me with that recovery process so I would be ready to go.”

Shepherd explained that he tested positive on June 27 and again on July 25 while rehabbing from shoulder and groin injuries. His shoulder may eventually require surgery and a snag in his sports hernia surgery recovery left him with a herniated L4-L5 disc in his back.

The suspension has not been formally announced yet by the NFL, but that should be coming any moment now. Shepherd’s public confession, in all likelihood, means that he is either not filing an appeal or has already lost his appeal.

Last year, Shepherd tallied 15 tackles while appearing in all 16 games for Gang Green, including five starts.

Extra Points: Redskins, Supplemental Draft, Jets

The Redskins are going to be one of the more interesting teams to monitor during training camp. They have a bunch of interesting storylines, none bigger than the battle between rookie Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum to be the team’s starting quarterback. Speaking to Steve Wyche of NFL Network recently, Redskins GM Doug Williams indicated that the front office and even ownership would play a role in determining when Haskins starts (Twitter link).

Williams specifically indicated the decision would not be head coach Jay Gruden’s alone, saying that he, Gruden, team president Bruce Allen, and owner Dan Snyder would come together to make a decision. That news is sure to rile up Redskins fans, who have mixed feelings on Snyder, to put it nicely. Williams said he was excited about Haskins’ development, but made sure to emphasize they wouldn’t just throw him out there if he wasn’t ready. That’s the language any team is going to speak, and the part about it being a collaborative process is the real eyebrow-raiser here. Gruden appears to be coaching for his job this season, and Washington won’t be able to keep Haskins on the bench too long unless Keenum looks lights out during the preseason.

Here’s a couple of other notes from around the league on a slow Saturday evening:

  • The supplemental draft got a lot more interesting earlier today when Washington State safety Jalen Thompson announced he’d be entering. The three previous players to enter July’s supplemental draft weren’t too noteworthy, but Thompson is intriguing. Thompson seems like a near-lock to get drafted, and Tony Pauline of tweets that scouts had given him a 3rd/4th round grade prior to last season. Pauline also notes that the three-year starter has scheduled a July 8th workout for NFL teams in Los Angeles. It’ll likely be heavily attended. While we don’t have the full details yet on why Thompson was ruled ineligible for the 2019 NCAA season and had to declare, Washington State did issue a statement, per Jessamyn McIntyre (Twitter link). In their statement, the Cougars simply said he lost his final season of eligibility “due to a violation of NCAA rules.”
  • The Jets took a gamble by drafting defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd in the third round last year, and so far it hasn’t paid off. Shepherd played at small-school Fort Hays State so he was a bit hard to scout, but the team banked on his upside when they took him 72nd overall. Shepherd played around 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps as a rookie, but didn’t play particularly well and appears to be falling out of favor with the new coaching staff. While breaking down the team’s depth chart, Matt Stypulkoski of writes that Shepherd’s stock has gone down so far this offseason, saying it “sure seems like it only took one season for Shepherd to turn into something of a forgotten man,” and adding that he “hasn’t proven enough.” There’s still a long way to go, so Shepherd could always find himself back in favor with Adam Gase, but right now things aren’t looking great.
  • In case you missed it, the Chiefs could reopen extension talks with Tyreek Hill now that it looks like he’ll emerge from the league’s investigation relatively cleanly.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/18/18

Here are the rest of Friday’s draft signings.

  • Third-round pick Nathan Shepherd signed his Jets deal, the team announced. A defensive tackle out of Division II Fort Hays State, Shepherd is currently slated to shift to end in New York’s 3-4 look. With Shepherd’s contract finalized, 22 third-round picks remain unsigned. That comprises nearly a third of the unsigned picks. The CBA’s vague language regarding this round provides annual holdups on these agreements. Shepherd will sign for four years and $3.447MM and receive a $987K signing bonus. As a third-round pick, Shepherd’s only true guaranteed money will come from that bonus.

AFC Draft Fallout: Browns, Jackson, Colts

The Browns listened to offers for their No. 4 overall pick, but the talks for that spot did not escalate too far. Four teams contacted John Dorsey about potentially moving into that position, Peter King of reports, noting just one offered a package including a 2019 first-rounder. King estimates the Cardinals were that team. However, Dorsey said the franchise interested in moving up to No. 4 was interested in a quarterback that the Browns GM knew going to be available.

I’m coming up for one player and one player only, and that’s Baker Mayfield.” the anonymous exec told Dorsey, who relayed this to King. “I knew all along it wasn’t going to happen.”

Mayfield visited the Cardinals before the draft, and while it’s uncertain if they were the team that offered a 2019 first-rounder, their No. 15 draft position being the lowest of the QB-needy teams would make such a proposal logical. Arizona ended up with Josh Rosen, moving up five spots without having to sacrifice a first- or second-round pick to do so.

Here’s more from Cleveland and the rest of the latest draft fallout.

  • New Browns vice president of football operations Alonzo Highsmith said for months he had Sam Darnold rated ahead of Baker Mayfield in a succession that went Darnold, Mayfield, Rosen, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. But Mayfield’s visit changed the new Cleveland exec’s tune. “From the start of this college football season to the end of the season, I had Darnold No. 1 and Baker No. 2On our way through everything, you couldn’t tell me Darnold wasn’t the best,” Highsmith said (via Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository). “Then comes the part where you meet them off the field. You watch their workouts. You watch everything. And Baker blew me away. Highly, highly intelligent. Highly competitive. And he had a trait that some of the good ones have. I call it efficacy. That includes the power to effect other people. I thought that of all the quarterbacks I watched, he stood out far and above the other guys. When he walked into a room, you knew he was there.”
  • Lamar Jackson‘s pre-draft process did not go smoothly, with CBS Sports’ Joel Corry reporting teams had trouble scheduling workouts and meetings with him. The quarterback also experienced difficulties breaking down plays on teams’ whiteboards at the Combine. Corry notes Jackson’s decision to not hire an agent could have cost him some money on his rookie contract, with the Ravens being able to get him at No. 32 after a contingent in their draft room lobbied for him at 16.
  • Chris Ballard said, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, the Colts‘ decision to make Quenton Nelson this year’s No. 6 overall pick was the easiest draft decision he’d made in 19 years (Twitter link). However, if Bradley Chubb would have remained on the board, Ballard admitted (via Holder, on Twitter) it would have been a much tougher call. Had the Broncos and Bills been able to swing a deal, the Colts would have been faced with that decision. But when the Bills contacted the Colts about a trade for No. 6, Ballard appeared to intimate he was fixated on Nelson.
  • Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd will be stationed at defensive end in the Jets‘ 3-4 scheme, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes. Despite weighing 315 pounds, Shepherd will be in line to potentially take Muhammad Wilkerson‘s spot opposite Leonard Williams come training camp.