Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has a reputation for hoarding late-round draft picks and spinning them into gold.
He didn’t wait for the draft this offseason to see what he could potentially get with a sixth-round pick.
The Vikings traded a compensatory sixth-round pick (the 223rd overall choice) to the Arizona Cardinals for Mason Cole, a fourth-year offensive lineman who started 14 games at center last season.
The #Vikings have acquired OL Mason Cole via trade with the Cardinals.
The completion of the trade is pending the passing of a physical exam.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 25, 2021
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Cole Tapped to Take Starting Guard Spot
A Michigan alumnus, Cole was the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener in school history back in 2014. He set a school record for offensive linemen, starting 51 games in his career — which also ties the record among players at any position. Of his 51 starts, Cole played 25 games at left tackle before moving to center.
Cole, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, started all 16 games of his rookie year after the Cardinals lost starting center A.Q. Shipley to an ACL tear. He backed up Shipley in 2019, while also starting two games at guard, and became Arizona’s starting center when Shipley left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 free agency.
Cole allowed two sacks and 20 pressures in pass protection last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Minnesota’s offensive line is currently missing a guard and left tackle. Ezra Cleveland has been projected to be the best in-house option to move to left tackle, opening up a second guard spot to fill.
Cole is a top contender for either guard spot as the team’s most-experienced interior offensive lineman. The Vikings essentially found a proven prospect who could start in a trade with the Cardinals over rolling the dice with a Day 3 draft pick.
Cole, on the final year of his rookie deal, is scheduled to carry a $2.185 million cap hit.
Here are Cole’s 2020 Pro Football Focus grades compared to both Dru Samia and Dakota Dozier.
|Lineman||Run Blocking||Pass Blocking||Overall|
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Vikings Offensive Line is Not Solved
While the addition of Cole is an encouraging start, the Vikings need to search for more depth either in free agency or the upcoming draft.
Minnesota has expressed interested in several offensive linemen, however, the Vikings are currently financially strained after big-ticket signings of Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson to bolster the defense.
The Vikings could free up more cap space by extending Harrison Smith and pushing more of his earnings to future cap hits. However, a move should be made quick before more talent is sniped by other teams.
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