Lions officially exercise fifth-year option on T.J. Hockenson

Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports /

A few days ahead of the deadline, the Lions have picked up tight end T.J. Hockenson’s fifth-year option.

It was an expected move and a formality to be announced before the May 2 deadline. On Tuesday night, the Detroit Lions announced they’ve officially exercised the fifth-year option on tight end T.J. Hockenson’s rookie contract.

Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft out of the University of Iowa, is now on the books for $9.4 million in 2023. A Pro Bowl nod in 2020, as he became the first Lions’ tight end to get that distinction since David Sloan in 1999, boosted the value of his fifth-year option.

Right now, Hockenson would have the ninth-highest salary cap hit among tight ends for 2023.

Despite missing the final five games last year due a thumb injury that required season-ending surgery, Hockenson topped 60 catches for the second straight season in 2021 (61). In that breakout 2020 Pro Bowl campaign, he led all NFC tight ends with 67 receptions.

T.J. Hockenson will get a multi-year deal from the Lions

The scars of past Lions’ first-round pick tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron led to the selection of Hockenson being quickly lamented. But he has met expectations, and become a critical piece of the offense.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes has made it clear a long-term deal is being worked on for Hockenson. But as with every position now that the salary cap will continue to rise post-pandemic, tight end salaries are rising.

As noted by Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, tight ends Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, drafted a year before Hockenson, received new deals averaging at least $14 million per year last year.

The NFL record contract for a tight end is that of Hockenson’s fellow former Hawkeye George Kittle (five years, $75 million; $40 million in guarantees in 2020).

Even adjusting for a rising market Hockenson won’t get a deal quite like Kittle’s, at least in total. Four years in the $12-$14 million dollar average range, with a little more than half guaranteed, looks like a sweet spot the Lions will eventually get to.

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