EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told beat writers Tuesday that the team has traded linebacker Gerald Hodges, Jr. to San Francisco to acquire rookie center Nick Easton and a 2016 sixth-round pick.
Hodges, a fourth-round pick in 2013, played in 29 games with 10 starts. He was tabbed to be the starting middle linebacker in Minnesota's base defense after a strong training camp and preseason. He recorded 19 tackles, one quarterback hurry and one pass defended in the Vikings first four games this season.
"I think Gerald has played very well for us. It's shown up on tape. He's grown up tremendously," Spielman said. "Sometimes these are difficult decisions, but when you have depth and youth at a position, and you can make a move from a business perspective on getting your team better when you have extra pieces to move, I think you always have to look at those."
Spielman said the acquisition of Easton was not influenced by the health of center John Sullivan, who is on the reserve/injured — designated to return list while recovering from back surgery.
Easton signed with Baltimore as an undrafted rookie out of Harvard, but the Ravens traded him to the 49ers as teams made their final roster reductions.
"We tried to sign him after the draft. He played very well in the preseason," Spielman said. "We've monitored him when he was with the Ravens, and I believe San Francisco traded for him at the 53-man cut because I know they had some injuries at that position."
While the move isn't an indicator on Sullivan, it does make a statement about the depth the Vikings believe they have at linebacker.
"It's an opportunity to get another young player, to take a look at him and see what he can develop into," Spielman said. "It's because of how we feel about (second-round pick Eric) Kendricks. We felt we had 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 at that position."
Spielman traded a sixth-round pick before the season to San Diego to acquire offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.
"It's an opportunity in my mind, we got our sixth-round pick back that we used to trade for (Jeremiah) Sirles and also add another young player to see what he's about," Spielman said.