Lions exercise fifth-year option on T.J. Hockenson's contract
Allen Park — In an expected move, the Detroit Lions exercised the fifth-year option on tight end T.J. Hockenson's rookie contract on Tuesday. The move that will keep him in the fold through the 2023 season as the team continues to navigate a long-term extension.
General manager Brad Holmes had acknowledged the plan to exercise the option at the annual league meetings last month.
"Hockenson, obviously, he’s a big part of what we did last year," Holmes said. "It was unfortunate when he became unavailable for us (due to injury), but he’s another (player) that we’ll continue to lean on this year."
The one-year option year carries a $9.4 million fully guaranteed salary, a cap hit that would currently rank ninth at the position in 2023.
The No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft out of Iowa, Hockenson has largely met expectations his first three seasons in Detroit. After catching 32 passes in an injured-shortened rookie campaign, he exploded for 67 receptions, 723 yards and six touchdowns in his second season, earning Pro Bowl honors for the performance.
And he was on pace to best those numbers in 2021 before a thumb injury sidelined him the final five weeks. In just 12 games, he still managed to haul in 61 catches and four scores.
At the league meetings, Holmes said the team is continuing to discuss long-term extensions for both Hockenson and cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal this season.
"Those guys will be important discussions that we have to have for the future, but those guys are productive players for us and we’re excited about them this year," Holmes said.
As with every position as the league's cap sharply grows following the pandemic, tight end salaries are on the rise. Last year, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews, two productive tight ends drafted a year before Hockenson, negotiated extensions averaging at least $14 million.
George Kittle, who preceded Hockenson at Iowa, signed the biggest contract for a tight end in NFL history in 2020 — a five-year, $75 million pact that included $40 million in guarantees.
Hockenson is one of several first-round draft picks from the 2019 draft class who have had their fifth-year extensions exercised in recent days. Others include Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver and Nick Bosa. The deadline for teams to decide is May 2.