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An introduction to new Saints center Nick Easton

Who is Nick Easton? Here’s all you need to know about the new Saints’ new man in the middle.

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the sudden news of center Max Unger retiring Saturday, the New Orleans Saints immediately had an unexpected hole in the middle of their offensive line. There were many thoughts about how New Orleans would look to fill the large void that Unger left after a spectacular four years in the big easy. So who was going to replace him? Will Clapp? Cameron Tom?

Would they check the trade market?

The Saints seemingly put everything to rest Sunday by signing former Vikings G/C Nick Easton after the free agent took a few days to make his final decision. Easton is expected to play center upon his arrival, his reported natural position.

So who exactly is Nick Easton? And what can the Saints expect?

Easton is a four-year pro who played his college ball at Harvard where he was a 2x first-team Ivy League All-American in both 2013 and 2014 as a junior and senior.

After college, Easton went to the Baltimore Ravens and first caught the eyes of many teams with an impressive preseason where according pro football focus, he finished with the highest grade of any center.

However, Easton would soon be traded to the San Francisco 49ers and wouldn’t earn his first start until the 2016 season where he was then apart of the Minnesota Vikings. Easton started five games to end that season, leading into his first opportunity the next as a full-time starter —but this time at guard.

In 2017 Easton started 12 games for the Vikings before fracturing his ankle in Week 16.

The following season Easton was penciled in again as a starter looking forward to showing consistency in his play, and a clean bill of health. Here’s a scouting report from The Athletic’s Arif Hasan on Easton, done in August of that year.

That healthy season as mentioned above never arrived for Easton however, as a neck injury forced him to injured reserve in training camp —ending his season.

The tools are available for Easton if healthy to thrive next to an extremely talented offensive line in the big easy. Knowing Sean Payton, Easton won’t be handed the job, but the early odds are definitely in his favor.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

His ability to pass block at a high level to go with his overall athleticism should pencil him in as an upside addition to the Saints’ philosophy offensively. As for Easton’s run blocking issues, we should expect the Saints to have a vision on how to not trap him in consistent problematic situations and matchups (His training camp battles versus Malcom Brown will be something to keep an eye on).

We’ve seen New Orleans plug in various players at the center position and thrive before. Jonathan Goodwin, and Brian de la Puente immediately come to mind. Nick Easton arguably possesses more talent than each from an eye test perspective alone. He should be able to fit right in longterm —if he can stay on the field.