Vikings Lions Football

Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Nick Easton (62) sets to block against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Detroit. The Vikings won the game 30-23. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Nick Easton had only been to New Orleans once before his visit last Thursday.

He was in middle school at the time, helping his church group with Hurricane Katrina relief.

"I didn't get really a full feel for the city and the culture and environment at that time," Easton said. "The thing that stuck out to me was the devastation of the city, the healing spirit of the city and just the work that guys were doing in the city."

After returning to the city last Thursday to visit the Saints, Easton — who can play center or guard — decided to make New Orleans his new home.

"Picking New Orleans was pretty easy," said Easton, who spent the past three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. "My first impression when I got to the facility was, 'Wow, this place is beautiful, this city is beautiful.' And then I go inside and meet the coaches, who are so enthusiastic and fired up and knowledgeable about football. Then you go into the locker room, and it's a beautiful place and friendly players. It's just an awesome fit."

The Saints formally announced Easton's signing Wednesday, three days after Easton's agency first told of the four-year, $24 million deal.

Easton's contract will pay him $6 million per season, which would make him the 15th-highest-paid center in the NFL.

His signing was timely, coming right when Saints center Max Unger announced his retirement. Easton said he has never met Unger but heard all about the Pro Bowl player he must replace.

"Great leader, great locker-room guy," Easton said. "So it's obviously huge shoes to fill. Obviously I'm a different player. So it will be different shoes in that spot, not necessarily me filling his shoes."

Easton missed all of last season in Minnesota with a neck injury (a herniated disk) that required surgery. But he says he's fine now.

"I'm feeling really good," Easton said. "It was definitely a long road to recovery. But this game has a lot of highs and lows, and it's feeling good to come back up to the top now."

Easton, a Harvard grad who majored in economics, appeared in 23 games with the Vikings, starting in 17 of them. He showed his versatility, playing 665 snaps at left guard and 463 at center. But he says center is more his natural position.

He's says he has paid attention to the fact that the Saints are typically among the NFL's leaders in sacks allowed and one of the leading rushing offenses. He is hoping to come in and help continue that success.

"The offense is a really well-oiled machine, and I'm fired up to be a part of it," Easton said.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.