The Minnesota Vikings have given tight end T.J. Hockenson a record-breaking deal that should lock up the former Detroit Lions first-round pick for the next several years. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a four-year, $68.5 million extension. That breaks the previous record of average per year ($17.125 million) and guaranteed money ($42.5 million) for any NFL tight end in the history of the league.
Last year, when the Lions were 1-6, they traded Hockenson to the Vikings. Minnesota received Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. The Lions received a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes never explicitly said that Detroit traded Hockenson to avoid giving him a massive contract, but he did say they made the move with the future in mind.
“I think it was a good deal for the future of the team,” Holmes said at the time. “So that’s my job, is I always gotta have a laser focus, not only in the current but also the future. And that’s what I did, and it just made sense for us.”
After the Lions traded Hockenson, they won eight of their next 10 games and proceeded to have one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Hockenson did excel in Minnesota, too. In seven games with the Vikings, he caught 60 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns. He also produced 10 catches and 129 yards in the Vikings’ playoff game, albeit a loss to the Giants.
As for the tight end position in Detroit, the Lions are aiming to replace Hockenson’s efficiency with second-round draft pick Sam LaPorta, who just finished a strong training camp. LaPorta’s rookie contract, by contrast to Hockenson, will only cost the Lions a total of $9.5 million ($2.36M average, $7.8M guaranteed) over the next four seasons.