On Monday evening ESPN senior NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that former Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings center Mason Cole “intends to sign a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.” Financial details were not disclosed.
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Cole—who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 298 pounds—spent last season with the Vikings, who acquired him from the Cardinals last March in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick. He went on to appear in 14 games for the Vikings—making seven starts—with four of those starts coming at center and three at right guard. But he finished the season on injured reserve, having suffered a hyperextended elbow in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears.
Mason Cole is a 2018 Third-Round Pick
Cole—who will turn 26 later this month—spent the first three seasons of his NFL career in Arizona, after the Cardinals selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft (No. 97 overall) out of Michigan. He started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie and then made 16 more starts over the course of the next two years before being traded away.
Last season Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave him a 69.7 overall grade, with a 75.2 run-blocking grade but a dismal 44.1 pass-blocking grade. If PFF’s grades are any indication, pass blocking could be a real issue with Cole, as he has earned pass-blocking grades of 41.9, 63.3 and 46.1 in the three prior years, respectively.
On the plus side, Cole is a proven commodity in terms of his ability to play multiple positions, which is a consideration, especially since the Steelers have uncertainty at both guard and center. Most notably, last year’s third-round pick, Kendrick Green, may be asked to make the move from the pivot to one of the guard positions after struggling at center as a rookie.
Andrew Wilbar of Behind the Steel Curtain recently described Cole as “the best buy in a pool of free agent centers, as he will provide starter-capable play at a relatively cheap price.”
Also of note: Cole started his college career at Michigan by making 25 consecutive starts at left tackle in 2014-15; then he switched positions and started 13 games at center in 2016. After that he played another season at left tackle in 2017 before moving back inside at the professional level.
Jersey Number Watch
The Florida native wore No. 52 at Michigan and wore that number the last three seasons in the NFL. No. 52 is the jersey number worn by late Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster (Class of 1997), who played for the team between 1974-1988.
Cole is the second free agent the Steelers have agreed to sign from outside the organization, following on the heels of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The former No. 2 overall pick has agreed to a two-year contract, as per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
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