The price for the Lions to keep T.J. Hockenson long-term has gone up

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions have a long-term decision coming on T.J. Hockenson, just in time to see the tight end market change.

As the deadline for that decision looms in early-May, it’s a no-brainer the Detroit Lions will pick up tight end T.J. Hockenson’s fifth-year option for 2023. The price of that option is now confirmed to be worth just shy of $9.4 million. The bigger question is what’s done with Hockenson beyond that.

As the Lions consider a multi-year deal for Hockenson, possibly even this offseason, the price of poker has gone up (as it would tend to do). On Tuesday, tight ends Dalton Schultz, David Njoku and Mike Gesicki were given the franchise tag by the Cowboys, Browns and Dolphins respectively. The franchise tag amount for tight ends this year is $10.391 million.

As outlined in a table put together by Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire, without getting too deep in the weeds, Hockenson compares closely to Schultz, Njoku and Gesicki based on 2021 statistics.

The Lions are set to have to pay T.J. Hockenson among top tight ends in the NFL

When a multi-year deal for Hockenson becomes a thing next offseason, the franchise tag in 2023 for tight ends will stretch toward $11 million. That’s likely be the starting point in contract talks. Spotrac currently calculates Hockenson’s market value contract at five years, $66.76 million.

Hockenson has missed at least four games in two of his three NFL seasons, including the final five games of last season after thumb surgery. He made the Pro Bowl in the one season he played every game (2020), and even with missing five games in 2021 he has topped 60 catches in back-to-back seasons. However his Pro Football Focus run blocking grade, 70.9 in 2020 and 60.8 as a rookie in 2019, fell to 45.1 last year–so that’s a bit of a concern looking to next season.

Adding depth behind Hockenson is on the radar for the Lions this offseason. But if they’d rather not pay him among the top five or 10 tight ends in the NFL on a multi-year deal, they’ll be facing a plan to outright replace him in a couple years.

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