The Vikings have several talented pass catchers in line for lucrative extensions. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson is understandably dominating the headlines in that regard, and according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the Jefferson negotiations are occupying the bulk of Minnesota’s attention at the moment (subscription required). Nonetheless, Seifert says that GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah plans to address tight end T.J. Hockenson‘s deal as well, even if that does not happen until later in the summer.
The Vikes acquired Hockenson via an intra-divisional swap with the Lions in advance of the 2022 trade deadline. In 10 regular season games in Minnesota, Hockenson posted 60 catches for 519 yards and three scores. His 8.7 yards per reception rate was somewhat disappointing in light of the 11.1 YPR average he enjoyed over 3+ years in Detroit, but that could be a result of small sample size noise and could improve with a full offseason of work in the Vikings’ offense. Hockenson demonstrated how explosive he can be in the club’s wildcard round loss to the Giants, racking up 10 catches (on 11 targets) for 129 yards.
Hockenson, who will turn 26 next month, is under club control through 2023 since Detroit exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie deal last April. He is due to earn $9.4MM for the upcoming season, which would represent something of a bargain given the current state of the TE market.
At present, 11 TEs are averaging $10MM or more per season, though that list includes Saints’ all-purpose weapon Taysom Hill. Spotrac estimates that Hockenson could score a contract with a $14.4MM AAV on the open market, a figure that would place him behind only the Giants’ Darren Waller and the 49ers’ George Kittle. Waller’s Raiders-constructed deal is comparatively light on guarantees, however, and Hockenson will likely be shooting for between $30MM-$40MM in guaranteed money (Kittle, the Ravens’ Mark Andrews, the Eagles’ Dallas Goedert, and the Bills’ Dawson Knox are the tight ends on non-rookie deals that feature guarantees in that range).
Pro Football Focus’ metrics considered Hockenson the 10th-best tight end in the league in 2022 despite subpar blocking grades. The Vikings did give Josh Oliver a notable free agent deal in March, and he offers plenty of blocking acumen. Plus, as Seifert writes, head coach Kevin O’Connell believes that pairing Hockenson and Oliver will allow his offense to live up to its full potential, and it does not appear that the Oliver signing impacts Hockenson’s future with the club in any way.
In related news, Craig Peters of the Vikings’ official website reports that recently-retired tight end Ben Ellefson will join the team’s staff in a hybrid role that will allow the Minnesota native to “explore coaching, scouting and player development opportunities.”