The Detroit Lions have picked up the fifth-year option of tight end T.J. Hockneson, the team announced on Tuesday. Because Hockenson has already made a Pro Bowl in his early career, his fifth-year option has bumped up in value a bit. The extra year will cost the Lions $9.4 million in guaranteed salary.
Hockenson, the team’s eighth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, has been a prominent feature of the Lions' offense ever since he took the field. Though he only had 367 yards and two touchdowns his rookie season, he immediately jumped in production the next year, hauling in 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl. He nearly outgained those stats in his 2021 campaign, but a thumb injury cut his season short.
Earlier this offseason, Lions general manager Brad Holmes noted that they have internally discussed the option of giving Hockenson an extension. He noted that if they don’t get an extension done before the deadline for the fifth-year option (May 2), they would exercise that option.
“Unless (an extension) doesn’t happen, then we would have an intention to get that fifth-year option done,” Holmes said.
Obviously, the Lions still have an opportunity to extend Hockenson beyond 2023. For a sense of what that may cost Detroit, Zach Ertz signed a three-year, $31.7 million contract this offseason, while Jonnu Smith signed a four-year, $50 million deal last offseason. It would be fair to expect anywhere between $10-14 million per year for a new deal.
With the Lions exercising this fifth-year option, they now have an extra year to hold negotiations with the 24-year-old tight end.