What Could a T.J. Hockenson Contract Extension Look Like?

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

This offseason, there has been much made of a potential Justin Jefferson contract extension. The coverage is certainly warranted, considering how much the star receiver means to the Vikings offense.

However, Jefferson is not the only player that could be in line for a new contract as the offseason winds down. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was acquired at the trade deadline last fall, is heading into the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, and if he is not signed to a longer term deal this year, the soon-to-be 26-year-old will hit unrestricted free agency in March 2024.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, what could a Hockenson contract extension look like, and would the Vikings actually be able to pull off such a move? Let’s take a look at Hockenson’s production over the past few years, and the contracts recently given to tight ends to find an answer.

In terms of production, there are few players that outpace Hockenson, especially over the past few years. He has recorded 60+ receptions in each of the past three seasons while also surpassing 700 receiving yards and totaling 6 TDs in both 2020 and 2022. The tight end’s numbers were limited in 2021 due to an injury that held him out for five games.

Since 2020, there are only four tight ends with more receiving yards than Hockenson’s 2220, and each of them have recently gotten new contracts. Those players are:

  • Travis Kelce (3879 yards)
  • Mark Andrews (2909 yards)
  • George Kittle (2309 yards)
  • Darren Waller (2249 yards)

Only Kelce (307) and Andrews (238) have more receptions than Hockenson (214) in that timeframe as well (all statistics per Stathead). Here’s a look at the contracts (per Spotrac) these four players have received over the past couple years:

  • Kelce: 4-year/$57.25 million ($22.75 million guaranteed)
  • Andrews: 4-year/$56 million ($37.58 million guaranteed)
  • Kittle: 5-year/$75 million ($40 million guaranteed)
  • Waller: 3-year/$51 million ($22 million guaranteed)

These certainly are large contracts, but there is reason to believe that Hockenson could garner even more cash, particularly in the guaranteed section, for a couple reasons. Firstly, his role as a pass-catcher saw a dramatic increase over his 10 games in Minnesota. He averaged 8.6 targets per game (up from about 6.1 while in Detroit) and his 519 yards in those 10 games would have ranked 14th among tight ends for the entire season.

What Could a T.J. Hockenson Contract Extension Look Like?
Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFC tight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings (87) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

More importantly, though, is the fact that Hockenson likely is just hitting the peak of his career. He turns 26 years of age in July, which makes him significantly younger than any of the players that have outperformed him to this point in his career. Kelce turns 34 in October, Andrews turns 28 prior to the season’s start, Kittle turns 30 in October, and Waller will turn 31 just after Week 1 this September.

The one knock on Hockenson is that he has not been as consistent a blocker like some tight ends like Andrews or Kittle. 2022 saw Hockenson earn grades of just 57.3 in run blocking and 51.1 pass blocking by Pro Football Focus‘ metrics. That being said, PFF has never given Waller a run-blocking grade above 60 throughout his seven-year career, and only twice has he had pass-blocking grades above that threshold.

Taking into account that free agent acquisition Josh Oliver is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, inconsistent blocking probably won’t hinder Hockenson’s ability to earn a lucrative contract, particularly with how much he meant to the Vikings passing game.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings tight end land a four-year extension, essentially taking him through the rest of his 20s with an AAV of $15+ million. His guaranteed money would likely approach Kittle’s $40 million as well.

Luckily, the Vikings have been clearing cap space, particularly this offseason, to ensure they can fit these types of contracts in their budget. Following the Za’Darius Smith trade, the Vikings now have $41 million in their back pockets for next offseason. If Dalvin Cook gets moved this offseason, or Brian O’Neill’s restructure finally happens next year, that could save upwards of an additional $20 million as well.

In short, a Hockenson extension should certainly be one of the top priorities for the Vikings this offseason, considering how much he means to the offense and the fact that they can certainly fit a contract for him into their plans. Additionally, locking up he and Jefferson long-term is equally important for the development of Jaren Hall or whichever young QB Minnesota brings in for 2024 and beyond for life after Kirk Cousins. It seems like a safe bet that both Hockenson and Jefferson will get new deals sooner than later.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.