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Saints sign defensive tackles Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd

Khalen Saunders with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022 (Photo from the Chiefs/website)

The NFL new year started Wednesday with the New Orleans Saints immediately jumping into the mix, agreeing to terms with defensive tackles Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd.

The moves come after it was reported that the team was losing two starting defensive linemen in David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle to the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, respectively. Both new additions, each under the age of 30, add some youth to a Saints locker room that is one of the oldest teams in the NFL.

According to the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rappaport, New Orleans is expected to sign Saunders to a three-year, $14.5 million deal. Specifics regarding Shepherd’s deal have not yet been released, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

RELATED: Derek Carr found what he was looking for by signing with New Orleans

Saunders, who was a key piece to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl runs in 2020 and 2023, is coming off a career-high 511 defensive snaps. He is listed at 6’4” and 324 pounds but moves well for a big man, tallying three tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks last season (totaling 18 pressures as a pass rusher.)

Shepherd was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. In five seasons in the league, Shepherd has recorded 104 tackles and six sacks. The 6’4” 315-pounder had a career-high 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2022.

Saunders could factor into the compensatory picks for the 2024 NFL Draft, but because the Saints have lost more players than the maximum picks they can receive, the defensive tackle shouldn’t negate any picks.

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