Instead of returning to the Vikings, free-agent offensive lineman Nick Easton is signing with the New Orleans Saints.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Easton will serve as the starting center for quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints, and his deal will pay him $24 million over the next four years.
It's a big contract for a lineman who missed the entire 2018 season with the Vikings recovering from neck surgery to repair a bulging disc, and it appears to be an unexpected blow considering general manager Rick Spielman confirmed last week that the Vikings were in discussions with Easton about returning in 2019.
"His physical traits that we look for fit very well from a schematic standpoint than maybe some of the other people that we looked at in free agency,” Spielman said.
Easton had started 16 games at guard and center for the Vikings since 2016.
Minnesota has yet to make a move in free agency to upgrade what was a mediocre offensive line in 2018, and if the season started today the only guard under contract on the roster is Danny Isidora.
Rashod Hill can play guard but he's listed as a tackle on the depth chart.
Offensive linemen under contract for the Vikings in 2019, according to Spotrac.
- Riley Reiff - T
- Pat Elflein - C
- Brian O'Neill - T
- Rashad Hill - T
- Danny Isidora - G
- Aviante Collins - T
- Cornelius Edison - C
- Adam Bisnowaty - T
- Storm Norton - T
The Star Tribune's Ben Goessling reports that Minnesota could entertain free-agent guard Josh Kline in a visit this week. He's a 6-foot-3, 300-pound 29 year old who started 46 of 48 games for the Tennessee Titans over the past three seasons.