Meet the newest member of the New Orleans Saints, center Nick Easton.
Rightfully, Nick Easton believes he has hit a sweet spot in his career.
After sitting out the 2018 season while recovering from having a herniated disc in his neck repaired, the bounce-back for the offensive lineman is that he agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.
"I'm feeling really good," Easton said Wednesday, March 20. "It was definitely a long road to recovery for that. But this game's got a lot of highs and lows, and it's feeling good to come back up to the top now."
"We had communications with the doctor throughout the whole process and starting out from the beginning, we had a goal for when the ultimate clearance would be. And we hit that goal right on solid – that was just a couple of weeks before the free agency period started."
Easton's entrance coincides with the exit of center Max Unger, who announced his retirement this offseason. Unger said that he no longer believed he could manage the physical demands of the game, in part because of a recommended surgery that would have prevented him from working out and totally being prepared for the 2019 season.
Easton played five games at center to close out the '16 season for Minnesota, and started the first 12 games of '17 at left guard for the Vikings.
"Obviously huge shoes," Easton said. "Everything I've heard about him – I've never met him personally – but great leader, great man, great locker room guy. So it's obviously huge shoes to fill. And obviously, I'm a different player. So it's going to be different shoes in that spot, not me necessarily filling his shoes, if that makes sense."
The Saints have two other players on the roster, Cameron Tom and Will Clapp, who also are capable of playing center.
"They told me they really liked my game and they wanted me to come in and compete," Easton said. "And that's what I've done my whole career, so I was excited to do that."
Easton, Tom and Clapp also are able to play guard, but the free agent said he expects to play center in New Orleans.
"I think I'm a little more natural at the center spot," he said. "I've gotten a lot of reps at guard, too, so I think that's just a testament to my flexibility in positions. But if I had to choose one, I'd personally choose the center spot.
"From my communication, it's been start off probably at center. But I've got to get down there first, I've got to get a playbook in my hand, I've got to shake everybody's hand first and introduce myself before we can really talk about exactly where I'm going to fit in."
What Easton does know for sure is that the Saints have had one of the most productive offensive lines in the NFL for the last several years.
"That was part of the pitch when I was down there, was that they've always ranked toward the top of the league in fewest sacks allowed and most rushing yards, which are probably two of the most important stats for an offensive line," he said. "And then you see the production that they have. It's pretty obvious that that is a huge selling point for this team."
Easton, who was undrafted out of Harvard in '15, said the Saints made an immediate – and positive – impression during his free agent visit.
"Choosing New Orleans was pretty easy," he said. "My first impression when I got to the facility is, 'Wow, this place is beautiful. This city is beautiful.'
"And then I go inside, meet the coaches – who are so enthusiastic, fired up and knowledgeable about football. Go in the locker room, beautiful place, friendly players and it's just an awesome fit. And the offense is a really well-oiled machine and I'm just fired up to be a part of it."