An interesting decision awaits general manager Brad Holmes in the next eight weeks.
Should he decide to exercise tight end TJ Hockenson’s fifth-year option or let him enter free agency after the 2022 season ends?
He could decide to offer the 24-year-old tight end a long-term contract extension, which would lower his cap reached in the coming seasons.
It was revealed Monday that Hockenson would earn $9,392,000 in fully guaranteed money in 2023 if his fifth-year option was chosen after earning a Pro Bowl berth.
While Hockenson wouldn’t earn nearly the $15 million his friend George Kittle gets, his contract would rank eighth among active tight ends, just above Kyle Pitts, Logan Thomas and Darren Waller.
Since entering the league in 2019, it’s safe to say that the level of productivity hasn’t reached the level of the highest-paid tight ends in the league.
Since 2019, Hockenson has had 160 catches, 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Injuries started to become more of a talking point early in the young tight ends’ career, as he missed the final quarter of the season in 2019 and 2021.
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“Obviously that’s not how you want to end a season at any point in your career. Now I’ve had two, with my ankle and now this,” Hockenson said during his end-of-season media session. “It’s not something you want to endure.”
His injuries are not expected to rule him out of off-season training, which is expected to resume in Nashville with Kittle and Co.
“Obviously I’m going to practice in Nashville,” Hockenson said. “George (Kittle) and all those guys. Me who goes down there, I think that every year I continue to improve. This year, at the start of the year, it was the best I have ever felt, the best football I thought I was playing. So obviously I’m just going to continue on that, continue to build.
At this point, it wouldn’t be in the Lions’ best interests to secure Hockenson a long and burdensome contract extension.
While that would lower his cap count, a long-term commitment to a player who hasn’t shown he can stay healthy and productive would be detrimental to the rebuild.
The best option seems to be to exercise his fifth-year option and continue to develop Hockenson under the watchful eye of new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who served as the team’s tight ends coach before being brought up in his new position.
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