After Max Unger’s abrupt retirement prior to this season, the Saints scrambled to find a replacement for the All-Pro level center. They found it in rookie Erik McCoy, who was stellar for the Saints in 2019, but McCoy was actually their third choice. The first was Cameron Tom, who was lost for the season before it began. The second was Nick Easton, who the Saints signed after two seasons with the Vikings to fill the void at snapper.
In spite of McCoy’s fantastic season, Easton saw the field plenty in 2019. An injury to guard Andrus Peat forced the Saints to ask Easton to step out of his comfort zone to fill in, with Will Clapp struggling at times. Easton and Clapp competed for the sixth-man role on the offensive line, without either one gaining a clear edge.
The Saints have a solid legacy as far as sixth men go. Senio Kelemete got a starting job with the Texans due to his strong job roving for the Saints, and Jermon Bushrod played 11 games last year. They were hoping Easton could continue that legacy this year, but up-and-down play inside will leave a question mark on whether the Saints will keep him on the roster heading into next year.
It isn’t like Easton completely hamstrung the offense. While Peat was out with an injury, the Saints averaged nearly 35 points per game with Easton filling in alongside Clapp. While Easton allowed just one sack and accrued three penalties, it’s hard not to wonder if that’s a testament to his own talent on the line or the Saints’ passer-friendly offense that entails releasing the ball quickly.
Easton did have a standout game against the Buccaneers in November. He was graded as the Saints’ best offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. However, those games were few and far between for the lineman.
Easton has potential for the Saints, but for a team with a small window, dealing in potential is a tricky proposition. He may be worth taking into training camp again, but the Saints may also want to search for a sixth man who can compete with both Clapp and Easton.