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2020 Detroit Lions top-10 best salary cap value: T.J. Hockenson

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The Lions first-round pick from 2019 kicks off our list of Lions best bargains.

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Salary cap management is one of the most important arts of building an NFL roster. Getting talented players at a low cost allows for acquiring additional talented players. It’s why you see plenty of teams chasing that young-quarterback-on-a-rookie-deal dream. If you’re somehow able to get a good—heck, even an average—quarterback on a cheap deal, it paves the way to support him with talent across the roster.

For the next 10 days, we’re going to look at the job Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn has done at creating the best bargains on the roster. What we’re looking for, essentially, is the best talent-to-cap-hit ratio on the team. Yes, that means we’re going to see a lot of rookies on our top-10 list—five, to be exact—but there are some other places Quinn has done well for himself.

Before we get into our list, there are two major caveats:

  1. This list was created with only the 2020 cap hit in mind, not the entirety of each player’s contract.
  2. 2020 rookies were not included in this list, since most of them have yet to sign contracts.

Today, we’ll start with No. 10 on our list of the best value cap hits for 2020: tight end T.J. Hockenson.

10. T.J. Hockenson

2020 cap hit: $4.6 million
2020 cap hit ranking: 17th among TEs

For a player just one season into his rookie contract, $4.6 million doesn’t really seem like that much of a bargain, especially at a position like tight end, where even the best of the best rarely see a cap hit above $10 million.

However, Hockenson has the potential to be a top-10 player at his position as early as this year. His rookie season may have seemed underwhelming, but it was actually on par with most first-round tight ends in their first NFL season. Additionally, we saw Hockenson do some amazing things as a rookie, including a record-setting NFL debut, and tallying eight catches of at least 19 yards.

In his rookie season, Hockenson ranked 23rd among tight ends in yards per game (30.6) and 18th in yards per catch (11.5)*. If Hockenson can make the Year 2 jump that we’ve seen from many young tight ends, it’s easy to see his $4.6 million cap hit being of much better value than some other players taking up more cap space. For example, Jimmy Graham ($6 million), C.J. Uzomah ($5.8 million), and... well, Jesse James ($5.3 million).

There’s a bit of projection and hope expressed here—which is why he’s only 10th on the list—but Hockenson was drafted eighth overall for a reason. If he is the weapon and mismatch that we saw in training camp and early in his rookie season, a $4.6 million camp hit will look like a huge bargain in 2020.

*minimum 20 catches for both stats