T.J. Hockenson Extension Proving to be Smart Investment for Vikings

T.J. Hockenson
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) runs after the catch against the Chicago Bears in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In a season of ups and downs that perfectly reflects the Minnesota Vikings’ .500 record, no player has brought more stability than tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson has been a much-needed model of consistency for the Vikings (7-7), who host the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a game critical to their playoff hopes.

The Vikings have dealt with endless changes on offense; a revolving door at quarterback, key injuries at WR, QB, RB and along the OL. Through all of that, T.J. Hockenson has been the one constant. The fifth-year pro has played through injuries, starting all 14 games and producing at a level that places him among the NFL’s best tight ends.

T.J. Hockenson: one constant for Minnesota Vikings offense

T.J. Hockenson
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the football – Kirk Cousins to start the season, Joshua Dobbs after Kirk ruptured his achilles, to current starter, Nick Mullens. Hockenson shows up each week and makes plays.

A two-time Pro Bowl performer, T,J, is certain to receive another invite this season, one in which he leads all tight ends with a career-best 91 receptions and 902 receiving yards, second to only Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (924).

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Statistically speaking, Hockenson is far and away the Vikings’ leading receiver, after star wideout Justin Jefferson missed seven of Minnesota’s first 14 games with injuries.

The Vikings currently hold the No. 6 seed in the NFC, and have a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs. Not only that, but their offense ranks 7th in the NFL in passing yards per game. Why? In large part because of T.J. Hockenson.

T.J. Hockenson Extension proving smart move

T.J. Hockenson was drafted by Detroit with the No. 8 overall pick in 2019. By his second season, he emerged as the Lions’ second-leading receiver and received his first Pro Bowl invitation.

Although the Lions exercised Hockenson’s fifth-year contract option, they traded him to their division rivals in a deal that included draft picks going both ways. For the Lions, the trade freed up cap space and prevented them from having to sign Hockenson to a large contract later.

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With the Vikings, Hockenson made an immediate impact with the Vikings, catching 60 passes over the final 10 games and earning his second Pro Bowl berth. After the 2022 season, Pro Football Focus rated Hockenson as the eighth-best tight end.

Still, consternation came about during Training Camp when Hockenson blamed an earache, among other ailments, as reasons for why he wasn’t participating in practices. Many suspected Hockenson’s real problem had more to do with his contract, which the Vikings eventually extended before the start of the season.

And after signing that 4-year, $68.5 million extension, T.J. suddenly felt better and quickly got back on the field as the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Given how good he’s been, though, that contract might look team-friendly in the long run.

Vikings thankful they eventually extended Hockenson

Hockenson is part of a proud fraternity of tight ends from the University of Iowa that includes the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle, the Seattle Seahawks’ Noah Fant, and Detroit Lions rookie Sam LaPorta, whom Hockenson will see Sunday in Minnesota. And now Hockenson is leading the way among his former Hawkeyes in both salary and receptions.

Minnesota has lost three of its past four games. Two of their remaining matchups are against the NFC North-leading Lions, Hockenson’s former team, with a game against Green Bay sandwiched in middle in Week 17.

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