T.J. Hockenson Is Already Worth Every Penny

Hockenson Contract Extension
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

At the NFL trade deadline, one notable position that the Vikings needed to fix was tight end. Irv Smith Jr. had gone down with an ankle injury, and the only tight end on the active roster was Johnny Mundt. Some potential temporary fixes included a reunion with Kyle Rudolph, or some other veteran tight end on a cheap contract.

However, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was not about to fill his starting tight end spot with a Band-Aid solution. Instead, he went all-in to get the Vikings a tight end for now and the future. He shipped out a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick to acquire T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick.

Hockenson had his fifth-year option accepted prior to the season’s start, so Minnesota will be on the hook for his $9.3 million cap hit in 2023. The Vikings could offer him a contract extension this offseason to lower that hit, but still, it’s a notable amount to be paying a tight end.

However, the tight end has played one game with the Vikings, and he’s already worth every penny that the Vikings have paid and will pay him. Hockenson fills a massive need for the Vikings, and he showed it against the Commanders on Sunday.

This was the first time that Kirk Cousins was under duress for much of the game this season. Because of that, he wasn’t offered much time to throw the ball. He needed to get the ball out quickly and find open players in the short-to-intermediate game. As the game played out, that guy often ended up being the new tight end.

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Hockenson was targeted nine times by Cousins throughout the afternoon. He caught all nine passes for 70 yards. For reference, Irv Smith Jr. has caught just 22 passes all season, so this one game from Hockenson equaled over 40% of Smith’s total production in 2022.

Additionally, Hockenson played a huge part for the Vikings offense as they mounted their fourth quarter comeback. The new acquisition caught four passes in the fourth quarter, including three during Minnesota’s 15-play game-winning field goal drive.

The Vikings have needed a safety blanket in the middle of the field to pick up third downs, and it’s one of the few things this offense has done poorly in 2022. Hockenson can do that while also being the perfect complement to Justin Jefferson’s ability to spread the field.

Against the Buffalo Bills and their ferocious pass rush, expect Hockenson to play a huge role in the Vikings offense once again this weekend. If he plays as well as he did this past weekend, there’s a decent chance the Vikings can pull off an upset.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.