Report: Ex-Vikings OG Nick Easton, Saints Agree to 4-Year, $24M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2019

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Nick Easton #62 of the Minnesota Vikings blocks against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints and free-agent interior lineman Nick Easton agreed to a four-year, $24 million deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The move comes a day after Field Yates of ESPN reported Max Unger, the Saints' starting center for the past four seasons, is retiring. Not surprisingly, Schefter added New Orleans plans to line up Easton at center. He lined up at center, left guard and right guard for the Vikings in 2017.

Easton missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in his neck. SiriusXM NFL Radio's Adam Caplan reported the 26-year-old has made a full recovery from the procedure.

Some might argue the Saints overpaid in order to secure Easton's services. His $6 million average annual salary will rank 14th among centers, per Spotrac.

However, Jason B. Hirschhorn of SB Nation's Acme Packing Company noted why New Orleans had an added level of desperation to sign a proven offensive lineman:

Jason B. Hirschhorn @by_JBH

This is a lot of money for Nick Easton, but the Saints just lost starting center Max Unger to retirement and don't have a first- or third-round draft pick. https://t.co/mQbv43n8EL

While Easton isn't a natural center, he has more experience over Cameron Tom, who was Unger's backup as a rookie in 2018.

The Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson reported the Vikings made a formal offer to Easton as he was weighing a final decision. Without making a corresponding move or two, though, Minnesota simply couldn't match the terms of his new deal with the Saints. The Vikings have a little over $2.3 million in available salary cap space, the lowest in the league, per Over the Cap.

Given the team's limited financial means, the draft seems the likeliest route for Minnesota to find Easton's successor. It has one selection in each of the first four rounds and a sixth-rounder as well. The Vikings also have three compensatory picks—one sixth-rounder and two seventh-rounders.

Offensive line was already a priority, with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projecting Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford to Minnesota in his most recent mock draft. Now, the Vikings have another reason to approach the draft with an eye toward strengthening at the point of attack.