Yet, no deal has come to fruition.
Hockenson, ailing from an ear infection, has been a transient participant at Vikings training camp. His absence from drills has left some pundits speculating whether it’s a means of applying pressure on the front office to get a deal done before the start of the regular season.
However, there’s an impasse that may be out of the front office’s control.
Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters revealed that the sticking point in contract talks is the amount of guaranteed money, which Minnesota has been tepid to offer the past two years.
“The holdup in Hockenson negotiations is believed to be not the overall amount of the contract, but the amount of guaranteed money,” Walters wrote on August 19. “The Vikings the past two years have ranked in the bottom half-dozen in the NFL in actual cash payroll. It might be more than coincidental that two years ago owners Mark and Zygi Wilf paid more than $400 million for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City team.
“Some smart people wonder whether that purchase has had an effect on how much cash they can spend going forward on the Vikings,” Walters added.
Hockenson was the second-most targeted tight end after arriving in Minnesota at the trade deadline. He finished the season ranked second in catches (86) and receiving yards (914) behind only Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce.
New Vikings Regime Has Yet to Offer a Lucrative Long-Term Extension
The lack of guarantees in contracts also coincides with the new regime’s “competitive rebuild” of the roster. The Vikings have yet to strike a multiyear extension for any player at a premium position, opting to play it year-by-year with players like Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins (both of whom are entering the final year of their contracts).
The new regime has proven patient in making major decisions after giving a veteran-laden roster a run in 2022 — but eventually, they’ll have to commit long-term to their rising stars.
Hockenson should be a future building block for the franchise. But with over $36.5 million of dead cap sunk into players no longer on the roster, part of an exodus of many veteran stars, the Vikings appear apprehensive to back up the Brinks truck at the moment — and that doesn’t exclude Justin Jefferson, either.
Both young stars should see new deals, however, contract talks remain stuck over the amount of guarantees Minnesota can offer at the moment.
T.J. Hockenson Projected to Strike 2nd-Richest TE Deal in NFL History
While contract talks remain in a gridlock, it’s only a matter of time before Hockenson strikes a lucrative extension.
Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger projected Hockenson to sign a four-year, $64 million deal with $37.5 million total guaranteed (not including Hockenson’s $9.3 million fifth-year option for the 2023 season).
“Hockenson ranked second among tight ends in regular-season targets after the trade deadline (60), and then quarterback Kirk Cousins looked his way 10 times in a playoff loss to the New York Giants, during which Hockenson racked up 10 receptions for 129 yards,” Spielberger wrote. “The former Iowa Hawkeye has put up three straight season-long receiving grades above 73.0 on at least 60 receptions. Over that span, he ranks fifth in yards after the catch (945), third in contested catches (31), seventh in 15-plus-yard receptions (43) and sixth in forced missed tackles (23).”
A deal of that magnitude would rank second all-time behind only fellow Hawkeyes product George Kittle, who inked a five-year, $75 million extension with $40 million guaranteed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2020.