Even after forfeiting their seventh-round pick last week, the Vikings still had 11 choices heading into the 2021 draft. They parted with one of them on Thursday, in exchange for a player who could step in as a starting offensive lineman.
The Vikings sent their compensatory sixth-round pick (the 223rd overall choice) to the Cardinals for Mason Cole, a fourth-year lineman who started 14 games at center for Arizona last season. The deal would be finalized if Cole passes a physical with the Vikings.
Cole, a third-round pick in 2018, started all 16 games for the Cardinals as a rookie when the team lost A.Q. Shipley to an ACL tear. He returned to backing up Shipley in 2019, and again became the Cardinals' starter in 2020 when Shipley left for Tampa Bay in free agency.
He gave up two sacks and 20 pressures in the passing game last season, according to Pro Football Focus, while playing 913 snaps for the Cardinals.
In Minnesota, Cole could shift to guard (where he played briefly in 2019) and battle for a starting spot, with at least one of the positions next to center Garrett Bradbury up for grabs. The Vikings could opt to keep 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland at guard, rather than moving him to tackle to replace Riley Reiff, but would still need another starter in that case.
At the moment, Cole has more NFL experience than any lineman on the Vikings' roster other than Rashod Hill or Brian O'Neill. He also played tackle at Michigan. Rather than using a Day 3 draft pick on a lineman they'd need to develop, the Vikings shipped one to Arizona, which was short on draft picks and could afford to part with Cole after acquiring Rodney Hudson last week.
Cole is scheduled to count for $2.185 million against the salary cap in the final year of his rookie deal, after hitting the league's proven performance escalator that rewards draft picks whose playing time exceeds expectations in their first three years. None of his salary is guaranteed for the 2021 season. He would become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Vikings entered the day with just over $10 million in cap space available after restructuring the contracts of Anthony Barr and Adam Thielen in the first week of free agency.