Saints sign XFL CB Deatrick Nichols, DE Noah Spence

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The New Orleans Saints added a pair of defenders with NFL experience Monday, inking former Cardinals defensive back Deatrick Nichols and re-signing former Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence.

Aston Wilson, the agent of Nichols, and reporter Tom Pelissero tweeted the first news of the two signings.

Nicholls led the XFL with three interceptions and six pass breakups in five games for the Houston Roughnecks before the league canceled the rest of its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also recorded 24 tackles with three of them for losses. The 5-foot-10, 189 pounder out of South Florida played with the Cardinals in 2018.

Spence, a former second round pick of Tampa Bay back in 2016. signed with the Saints back on Dec. 11. Injury problems hindered the 6-2, 232-pound Spence in his three years with Bucs but he has considerable potential as an edge rusher.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The New Orleans Saints have agreed to terms with cornerback Deatrick Nichols (pronounced DEE-trick) on a one-year contract, it was announced by Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.
Nichols, 5-10, 189, comes to New Orleans after spending the spring of 2020 with the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks, leading the league with three interceptions before the season was shortened. He was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of South Florida.
In 2018, Nichols was on the 53-man roster for six weeks, playing in two contests and recording solo special teams tackle.
At South Florida, the Miami, Fla. Native appeared in 50 games (39 starts) in four seasons, starting all 38 games during his final three years. He finished his college career with 175 tackles (136 solo), 11 interceptions (third-most in school history), 24 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one sack and 14.5 tackles for loss. Nichols was a three-time All-American Athletic Conference selection, earning first-team honors in 2015 and 2017 and second-team honors in 2016. He started all 12 games and was a first-team All-AAC selection after totaling 56 tackles (44 solo), three interceptions, four tackles for loss, a team-leading 12 passes defensed and a forced fumble as a senior in 2017. He started all 13 games and was a second-team All-AAC selection as a junior in 2016, totaling 49 tackles (37 solo), a team-leading four interceptions, two tackles for loss, 11 passes defensed and led the team with seven passes defensed.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The New Orleans Saints have re-signed DE Noah Spence to a one-year contract, it was announced by Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.
Spence, 6-2, 251, returns to New Orleans after spending the final three regular season games and NFC Wild Card Playoff on the club’s roster. He was originally selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second-round (39th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Eastern Kentucky.
Over his four-year NFL career with Tampa Bay (2016-18) and Washington (2019), he has appeared in 41 games with six starts. The Harrisburg, Pa. native has totaled 37 tackles (24 solo), 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He played in seven games for Washington in 2019, picking up three stops and a takedown. Spence enjoyed his most productive season in 2016, when he finished ranked sixth among NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks and third with three forced fumbles and was selected as NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for November when he posted 2.5 takedowns and two forced fumbles.
Spence played at Eastern Kentucky as a redshirt junior in 2015 after transferring from Ohio State and totaled 63 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as he was a consensus FCS All-American and chosen as the FCS National Defensive Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards. As a sophomore at Ohio State in 2013, he posted 52 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and one forced fumble as he was first-team All-Big Ten selected by league media after ranking second in the conference in sacks and sixth in tackles for loss.

New Orleans Saints Cornerback Deatrick Nichols
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How did all this come about between you and the Saints?
“They called me immediately actually and (asked if) I’m ready to go basically and I was ready to join.”

It’s been a while since you were in an NFL camp I guess, but we always hear about the dream come true scenario for guys, but did you figure this will kind of happen again for you with some point?
“Yes, I did. I just believed in the process and just controlled what I could control and (hoped) everything else would take care of itself.”

Does it get a little discouraging at times or do you just put your head down and keep your eyes on the prize and all those kinds of things?
“Yeah. Basically just keep your head down and then just work. Everybody’s story is always going to be different. That’s how I look at. It doesn’t matter if you stay in the same household or whatever. Everybody’s story’s going to be different. So you’ve just got to take the good with the bad even though I don’t feel like it was a bad, but that’s just how I go about any situation I go through. Everybody’s story’s going to be different, unique and everything like that.”

Did you have workouts with teams after being released by the Cardinals?
“Yes, I had a few workouts. I had a workout almost every week and that put a toll on me mentally, but I always believed in the process and everything like that.”

What time of year did you sign with the XFL? Was that an easy decision? That did not feel like you were choosing that over chasing the NFL dream?
“The XFL basically came probably I would say week 15, 16 in the NFL season so it wasn’t a really a hard decision because I just wanted to play some football. So basically it was an opportunity I couldn’t take up.”

Were the Saints one of the teams that you had worked out with before?
“No, I did not work out with the Saints.”

How disappointed was it for you when the XFL season got canceled only five games in and you were undefeated?
“I was heartbroken at that. I was enjoying that little process and everything. The Houston Roughnecks took us under their wings and took very good care of us and it was just a loving thing just to be able to play some football. Once football is taken away from you you’re always a little bit down, but everything happens for a reason. You can’t get too discouraged and (have to) just keep going.”

How do you feel like the XFL, as far as just the competition, how does that translate into the NFL?
“Yeah, there were some pretty good guys out there so it was competition. They had guys like me basically who played in the NFL or something like that. Basically who had experience in some type of football. There was definitely still a (lot of) talent out there. So it wasn’t like a little league I would say. You still had the ex (NFL)-players who were first, second rounders, third and everything like that out there. So the talent was there.”

Were you playing special teams as well?
“I played special teams as well. Kickoff, gunner, kickoff return, punt return, I played all parts just not field goal.”

Was it a relief to you when got the call from the Saints, especially with the XFL being canceled after just a few games?
“Yes, you could say it’s like a 50-50 thing because I really wish we could have finished that season as well because we started something that we didn’t finish. So I’m not a fan of that, but it was a truly a blessing to get a call from the New Orleans Saints to continue my dreams and everything like that. But it’s just another stone and I’ve got to keep going and I’m not finished yet. You could be happy, but I still have work to do.”

Was that a big factor in you deciding to join the Saints? Joining a team that’s been really close to winning a championship these past few seasons?
“Yes, I love their culture that they have. They look like a team that believes in executing their jobs and everything like that. I’m a huge believer in working, executing my job and practicing hard. They take practice serious and everything like that from the outside looking in and attention to detail.”

When your season ended in the XFL, what were you doing the following days as soon as the season ended. Were you still working out or what are you doing?
“Of course. You always want to stay ready, not get ready. That is my motto when things like that happen like just in case they say come up there tomorrow, I will be ready. Just stay ready. Don’t get ready.”

Your quarterback from the Roughnecks (P.J. Walker) signed with a division rival, are you looking forward to playing against them?
Yeah, I cannot wait. It is funny because we were in the same conference (AAC) in college, so we played each other a couple of times and we played some good ball against each other. When we found out we were on the same team, it was just like a love-hate thing just seeing another person play some good football. It’s a rival so it’s like I love you, but you’re taking some things away from me. So it’s going to be the same situation now.”

Did you mention how many teams you had offers from after the XFL? Were the Saints the first or only?
“Yes, I had to make a decision and choose New Orleans. I felt like that was the best fit for me.”

Do you think you would have gotten this opportunity if it wasn’t for the XFL and the season you had in a short amount of time?
“No, I really don’t think I would have had this opportunity. It came to me. I’m very happy that I made that decision to play in that league. It’s a good league. I really enjoyed (playing in the XFL). I really don’t think I would have this opportunity like it came to me if it wasn’t for that.”

You said you thought the Saints were your best opportunity, what led you to believe that? Do you know their history with undrafted free agents and that kind of thing? Or what made you believe that?
“Just how they work, how they operate. They want guys that execute, that believe in the system, that basically do their jobs. That’s the type of guy that I feel like I am. I don’t care about who gets the credit and everything like that. (All that matters) is all 11 doing their jobs. I feel like I’m a perfect fit for it.”

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Noah Spence
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What made the Saints attractive to come back for this upcoming season?
“I guess I was just really attracted to the culture of the program. I have never been somewhere that was run and just felt the way it did over there. You can tell everybody wants to win and is not just there for just for money or anything like that. Everybody actually really loves the game, they love it there and it’s a culture everybody wants to be in if they’ve seen it.”

Does it surprise you about the culture of the organization considering you were only there a month?
“Yeah, I mean it was always something that other people that I know from the league would tell me. But I mean, until you are in the building, you don’t really know what they’re talking about. You can tell me whatever, but as soon as you’re there you see it’s run real strategic and everything to point and everyone’s getting better every day, just with the littlest details and teaching everything. That is a big difference.”

What do you feel in terms of your sense of opportunity to play for this team?
“I feel like I just come in and try my best to get into the rotation and help the team with anything, even when it comes to special teams and I’m just coming in to play wherever they want me to be.”

When you heard around the league from other players about the organization how many guys had you spoken to or did they speak to you after you signed with the organization?
“They spoke to me and I talked to them before I got there and it wasn’t ever really like, oh, you should definitely go there. But it was just explaining how they had a different organization and I never really took it as, okay, well maybe I would be playing there one day and then when I got here and I was like, ‘this is really more than what anybody would ever say.’ Everything’s run differently, there’s a lot of love in the building. Everyone loves the game, loves their teammates and that’s the cultural mindset.”

What are you hoping to kind of do to get back on track and get back to where you’re playing regularly?
“For me it’s honestly just learning to get back all the way focused, sometimes when you are younger and going through things in the NFL off the field (and) stuff like that, you lose your focus and I just have to get back to being locked in all the way on my goals and that’s going to help me to win.”

What are your thoughts on the additions the Saints have made in free agency?
“I mean, I’m not a GM or anything like that (laughter), but I’m pretty sure they have a method to everything they do. Everything’s good.”

With Cam Jordan and majority of the defensive line coming back how does that help you?
“People like Cam and the rest of the D-line (are great). I was only there for like a month and they treated me like family. They were teaching me things that I never really learned anywhere else and just bringing me under their wing and trying to make me the best player that can be. So, yes, that was definitely an attraction.”

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