Predicting a potential T.J. Hockenson extension

When the Minnesota Vikings made the blockbuster trade at the deadline for Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, they changed the direction of the offense. The directive was received loud and clear that Hockenson was going to be a major part of the offense for years to come.

Giving up a second and a third-round pick for Hockenson and two fourth-round picks was a big investment. It also came with a moderate price tag of less than $10 million over the remainder of the 2022 season and the entirety of the 2023 season.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t make the trade for just one season, he made it to keep the Vikings competitive throughout his tenure and did so by making his offense as explosive as he could.

With that in mind, what could a Hockenson extension look like? Let’s get into it.

Past extensions

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The tight end position has always been an interesting one in terms of development. The adage is that you are drafting a tight end for their next team because of how long it takes to develop at the position. You are asked to block like an offensive lineman along with catching the ball and running routes like a wide receiver.

With that in mind, players often take three-four years to truly emerge into their prime. Look at players like Dallas Goedert, Travis Kelce and the latest example being David Njoku. They took a little bit of time to develop and adjust to the strength and speed of the NFL game.

The latest line of NFL extensions has the Vikings looking at an expensive contract for Hockenson.

  • Las Vegas’ Darren Waller: 3 years/$51 million

  • San Francisco’s George Kittle: 5 years/$75 million

  • Kansas City’s Travis Kelce: 4 years/$57.25 million

  • Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert: 4 years/$57 million

  • Baltimore’s Mark Andrews: 4 years/$56 million

  • Cleveland’s David Njoku: 4 years/$54.75 million

  • Buffalo’s Dawson Knox: 4 years/$52 million

  • New England’s Hunter Henry: 3 years/$37.5 million

  • New England’s Jonnu Smith: 4 years/$50 million

The theme here is four year extensions. Kittle did sign the only five year extension and the two three year deals were an aging Waller who is already 31 years old and may not actually see much of that money and an often injured Henry.

What does his production warrant?

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When you look at Hockenson’s production, you have to contextualize it. In his first three years with Detroit, he had 160 receptions for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns.

This past season between the seven games with the Lions and 10 games with the Vikings, Hockenson set career highs across the board with 129 targets, 86 receptions and 914 yards. Those stats ranked him second in the National Football League putting him above every tight end on that list in every category sans touchdowns.

Getting this kind of production in the first season with your new team is great, but what was really impressive is how Hockenson had 60 receptions for 519 yards when he joined the team midseason. That set him apart from the rest of the tight end group.

What could an exention look like?

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When you try to project out extensions, the two things you need to look at are what we are talked about: production and contract precedent.

The terms of the deal are likely to be four or five years. He was young when he came out of the University of Iowa and doesn’t turn 26 years old until July 3rd of this year. That makes a long-term extension much more palatable for the Vikings but it also makes it easy for Hockenson to get another extension before he turns 30.

As far as money is concerned, the floor for him would be what David Njoku got from the Cleveland Browns. His contract was built strictly on projection since his production hadn’t quite been there yet. That comes with a territory when it comes to tight ends though since it’s a tough position. This year, he caught 58 passes for 628 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that are almost certain to go up with Deshaun Watson likely to play the entire season.

The ceiling is likely what George Kittle is getting, which is five years, $75 million. I don’t foresee him getting the Darren Waller contract, especially with the potential of him not actually playing on it when it fully kicks in for the 2024 season. The Raiders would only have $500,000 in dead cap by either releasing or trading the star tight end.


Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings will likely try to get Hockenson to sign an extension now to lessen the cap hit this season and spread that out into future years. It should be easy to do since his cap hit of $9.33 million is all base salary. You can convert $8 million into a signing bonus and stretch it out over the course of five years.

My best guess is that the two sides essentially tear up the 2023 deal and he signs a four-year extension worth approximately $56 million. That would tie him for fifth among tight ends with Mark Andrews. I think that becomes the number that they settle on with Hockenson not quite having the production to warrant more than that.

Prediction: Four years, $56 million with a $15 million signing bonus and a 2023 cap hit of $5 million.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire