Overdrafted as he might have been (8th overall in 2019), tight end T.J. Hockenson was a good player for the Detroit Lions over three-plus seasons--one Pro Bowl selection, two 60-plus catch seasons. It seemed inevitable he would be signed to a contract extension, but things stalled and he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings at last year's deadline.
The Lions' offense was actually a little better from a scoring perspective after Hockenson was traded last year. So the idea they wouldn't miss him that much proved true, even if you can say it was only a 10-game sample.
With a report from The Athletic's Dianna Russini last week suggesting Hockenson wanted to "reset the market" with a "historic contract extension for tight ends", I declared the Lions the winner of the trade. They avoided paying a huge contract to a player who is not quite worthy of that, and invested that money in bigger need areas on the roster. Looming long-term deals for Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown, and possibly Jared Goff, was surely a factor in trading Hockenson too.
The Vikings acquired Hockenson fully knowing they'd have to extend him to justify the move, but it's worth wondering if they expected to give him a market-resetting deal.
On Thursday, that's just what the Vikings did.
Lions fans have fully expected reaction to Vikings giving T.J. Hockenson a massive contract
Here's a sample of Lions' fans reaction to the Hockenson contract news.
Given the shelf life of NFL careers, and how teams dispose of them whenever it's convenient for them, players need to cash in when they can and there may only be one chance for many. Hockenson had an opportunity to get a big contract, he/his agent played it out patiently as he dealt with a couple maladies and he got the record contract he wanted. And right on time, he practiced on Thursday as his ear infection and sore back went away.
But this isn't about Hockenson cashing in when an opportunity struck, where he ranks among his position peers or anything related to him all that much. The Lions made a smart move to part ways when they did. They've reset contract clock at tight end with a rookie this year, while maintaining maximum financial flexibility moving forward.