The Minnesota Vikings traded away LB Gerald Hodges to the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday.
General manager Rick Spielman announced the trade, with the Vikings getting rookie center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick. Easton played his college ball at Harvard and originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens after going undrafted. The Vikings were interested in signing him after the draft, too. Easton was then traded to the 49ers before the start of the regular season.
At Harvard, Easton started all 10 games his senior year in 2014 and was tabbed as an Associated Press FCS third-team All-American and a first-team All-Ivy League. Easton was active for two of the 49ers first four games of the 2015 campaign.
Hodges has been the starting middle linebacker for the Vikings in their base package this season, making three starts and it is expected that rookie Eric Kendricks will step up in place of him.
“I think it’s because of how we feel about Kendricks,” Spielman said of the trade. “One of the areas of strength we had on this football team that we wanted to address was that we have a lot of depth at that position. We feel strongly about Audie Cole and what he can bring and how well he’s been playing. But the development of Kendricks, and Edmond Robinson continues to come along, and we still have (Brandon) Watts on our practice squad. So we feel very good about our depth at that position.”
The Vikings also got a sixth-round pick in the trade after trading away their sixth-rounder before the season started to acquire guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles from the San Diego Chargers. Spielman likes to have 10 picks for every draft.
Spielman said the move isn’t an indication that starting center John Sullivan will be out longer than the eight weeks he is required to wait before coming back from back surgery.
“No, this is a young center. He’s a rookie. In fact, we tried to sign him after the draft,” Spielman said of Easton. “I think played very well in the preseason, we monitored him when he was with the Ravens (in the preseason) … It’s just an opportunity to get another young player and get in and take a look at him and see what we have and what he could potentially develop into.
“The hardest thing, it’s part of this business. When you get enough depth and you have guys, if you can use that to improve your ball club to get another draft pick, we’re always going to continue to try to add. And if we have to shake up anything or try to add pieces to make us a better ball club we’re going to do that. As well as Gerald Hodges was playing, we have a lot of good young depth behind him.”
“I think Gerald’s played very well for us. It’s shown up on tape. He’s grown up tremendously, but sometimes these are difficult decisions,” he said. “But, again, when you have depth and youth at a position and you can make a move from a business perspective on potentially getting your team better when you have extra pieces to move I think you always have to look at those.”