When the Detroit Lions dealt T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings last season, he became part of a rare NFL club: a player who was traded midseason to another team in the same division. But the tight end flourished on his new team, finding a connection with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. In 11 games with the Vikings (including one playoff game), he caught 70 passes for 648 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, shortly before his first full season in Minnesota, he’s once again in rarified air. Only this time, it’s financial.
Hockenson and the Vikings agreed to a four-year contract extension to keep him in Minnesota. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal will pay Hockenson at least $66 million and up to $68.5 million. Hockenson will earn $42.5 million guaranteed, and his contract will have an average annual value of $17.125 million. Both are NFL records for tight ends.
Minnesota gave up a 2023 second-round draft pick and a 2024 third-round draft pick to the Lions for Hockenson, plus a 2023 third-round draft pick and a conditional draft pick in 2024. Detroit ended up trading this year’s second-round pick to the Chiefs for additional picks later in the draft (and they traded part of that haul, too). The Lions selected tight end Sam LaPorta with the 34th pick in the draft. Coincidentally, both LaPorta and Hockenson went to Iowa.
Before signing this deal, Hockenson was about to enter the final year of his rookie contract. He had sat out most of the Vikings’ contact drills at practice, sticking to stretching and individual sessions. He claimed to have an ear infection and lower back stiffness, but he also may have been trying to reduce the likelihood of injury pre-extension.
Whatever the case, Hockenson is now the highest-paid tight end in history in terms of average annual value and guaranteed money. His next step is getting back to the playoffs. The Vikings finished 13-4 last season and won the NFC North but lost in the Wild Card round to the New York Giants.
Another postseason trip could be an uphill climb — the Vikings are a trendy pick to regress this season. The team won 11 of its 13 games in 2022 by single digits, finished 31st in yards allowed, and had a negative point differential (-3), the first team ever to accomplish such a feat while still racking up at least 12 wins.
With Hockenson now on the team for the long haul, the Vikings will look to prove the doubters wrong.