It’s no secret TJ Hockenson has been one of the best tight ends in the league since he was drafted back in 2019 to the Lions. In just three seasons (and some change), Hock quickly solidified himself as a dominant player and tabbed in at sixth all time on the Lions tight end yardage in their franchise history (and if given the entirety of the 2023 season, he’d be at fourth). When he joined the Vikings last November, he wasted no time acclimating to Minnesota and quickly became one of Kirk’s favorite targets. It felt like during every big play, every crucial moment, and every drive, Hockenson was involved in a key point in some capacity. Though he was only in Minneapolis for for 10 regular season games and one playoff game, he made his presence known enough for fans to clammer for an extension almost immediately. However, how good was he in those matchups?
Aside from Byron Chamberlain in 2001, Jermaine Wiggins in 2004, and Kyle Rudolph in 2016, no Vikings tight end since 2000 tops Hock’s 648 yards put up in just 11 games. Similarly, no tight end in franchise history has arguably been more effective for Minnesota than Hockenson was last year and if given a full 17-game season, may have topped Joe Senser’s franchise record of 1,004 yards eclipsed by a tight end in a single season. Minnesota is a better team with TJ on roster and now, it’s time for Kwesi and company to lock up the franchise player and that means an extension.
Engram’s new deal continues the signal of a new era for tight end contacts and should be the starting point for negotiations. As negotiations progress, look for Hockenson’s camp to try and get a deal that rivals Waller’s new contract and improves from Engram’s numbers. Engram’s AAV sits anywhere from $13.7 million to $14.9 million a year (numbers to be determined) and Wallers sits at $17 million, which puts both at 3rd and 1st respectively in the league. If Hockenson can hit career highs in all major categories (which he was on pace to do), the 26 year old will be poised for a solid contract extension come season’s end. Projections wise, a four year $69 million dollar contract seems right around the ballpark range. This would make Hock the highest paid tight end in the league and would put him due for a new contract right around 30 years old. With this, look for incentives to be heavily utilized and possibly a void year or two to help spread out the cap hit (and aid in signing a Jefferson mega deal).
Either way, negotiations should start to pick up steam throughout the season and if Hock can continue what he was doing in 2022, then he should have no issue arguing a stance of becoming the highest paid tight end in the league. Other names to take note of in the upcoming year to potentially help gauge an extension would be former Hawkeye teammate Noah Fant, Patriots partners Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, and enigmatic star Kyle Pitts.