As you all know, yesterday the Vikings traded LB Gerald Hodges to San Francisco for C Nick Easton and a 6th round draft pick. My initial reaction...and the reaction of a lot of Vikings fans was 'wait, what?' Hodges had been coming into his own as the 'Mike' linebacker, and Nick Easton, if reports are to be believed, was about to be released by the 49ers.
Report: 49ers will waive recently acquired C Easton: The 49ers plan to release Easton, an undrafted rookie from… http://t.co/bjKqYHBOqu— San Francisco Press (@SanFranciscoCP) October 6, 2015
It seemed like a lopsided trade in favor of San Francisco, and that was my initial reaction. After thinking about this a little bit more, though, I'm warming up to the trade for several reasons. Well, five actually...hence the title of the post. So, let's see why I'm feeling better about this trade than I was 24 hours ago.
1. Offensive line depth boosted: In the short term, this can't be over-stated. With Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan out, the Vikings were courting disaster by not getting some depth. Easton has the potential to play center, which would free up utility swingman and current starting center Joe Berger to move elsewhere if another injury occurs. Easton shows a lot of promise, and if Sullivan is out longer than the mid-season point, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Easton playing a fair amount. Right now, the Vikings don't have a jack of all trades lineman like Berger is, so if Easton ca step up, this will really bolster the line.
2. Vikings are back in the sixth round: To me, this was the biggest piece of the trade. The Vikings recently acquired another lineman, Jeremiah Sirles, by trading their sixth round pick to San Diego. GM Rick Spielman says he prefers having 10 picks heading into draft weekend, and the Vikings were sitting at six. This gets them back to one pick in every round, and there's the Patterson trade rumors still out there. I would bet that this is far from the last move Spielman makes, and he will have a bevy of later round picks come draft day. And remember, these picks are used to move around in the draft, to jockey for position to get the guy they want. Let's just take the fifth round of the 2015 draft, for example. The Vikings traded multiple picks and players to end up at selections 143 and 146. And those two picks turned out to be MyCole Pruitt and Stefon Diggs. So don't look at this pick as a final result. Instead, look and see how this pick is used by Spielman, and what player they eventually end up with...and where they get him.
3. Possible long term answer at center: Maybe it's just me, but I do not have a warm fuzzy about Sullivan coming back right after he comes off the IR-designated to return list in week nine. The Vikings rochambeau'd everyone by saying Sullivan had back spasms for a couple weeks, and then dropping the surgery information at the last possible minute. Let's assume Easton, who has a lot of upside, plays this year and does well. Now you have a young guy that will be able to step in and take over for Sullivan if Sully's injury is more serious than it seems to be.
4. Linebacker is a position of strength and position group not weakened: With Hodges gone, that means the linebackers the Vikings field in the nickel will more than likely be Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. That's a solid combination, and gives the Vikings more athleticism at that position than I can remember in years. And the emergence of Kendricks essentially made Hodges expendable, and with the Vikings playing in a base nickel formation in a vast majority of the game, this still gives the Vikings enough overall depth that moving Hodges isn't as bad as we might have initially thought.
5. WOOOOOOOO AUDIE COLE WOOOOOOOOOO: With Hodges gone, that means Cole is now the defacto Mike in base sets, more than likely. Personally, that was my preferred match up since training camp started, and I think that's the best LB corps the Vikings could field. Not that Hodges was bad, but talent wise, Hodges and Cole are a push, and Cole is the natural 'mike' linebacker. So from that perspective, the move makes sense. And folk hero Audie Cole gets more playing time, woo hoo!
I realize the gut reaction of most people is to pan this trade, but when you look at the long play here, I think this might turn out to be a good move. They get, potentially, a guy that could be a long term answer at center, and a sixth round draft pick for a guy that was kind of a luxury, and at a position the Vikings can absorb because of solid depth.
We'll see how it plays out.