When the Detroit Lions selected T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, I was not happy at all. In fact, there were a plethora of Lions fans who were in the same boat as I was.
My anger had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I believed Hockenson would be a good (or even great) NFL player but more to do with former Lions GM Bob Quinn not understanding how to let the draft come to him and get maximum value out of each selection.
*For the record, I predicted at the time that Hockenson would be in the Pro Bowl by his second year in the league (he was). I also predicted that he would eventually get to a second contract which would put the Lions in a tough spot financially.
Great NFL GMs understand which positions are worth spending money on and which positions can be filled via the draft and with affordable free agents. I have said a thousand times that overpaying for a wide receiver (either via the draft or with a contract) is a big mistake and when it comes to tight ends, they are not far behind.
During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show just before the start of the 2021 season, Hockenson told McAfee that it is time for tight ends to start being paid like wide receivers and offensive tackles.
“With George going through his whole contract and me living down in Nashville and kind of seeing that aspect, it is kind of crazy to think that we get paid less than a tackle and less than a wide-out when we do both,” Hockenson said this week on the Pat McAfee Show.
“They put a lot on us as tight ends to be able to run a route, to be able to block, and then you have to know the whole offense. You have to know motions, you have to know formations, you have to be able to decipher stuff. And with me and a lot of the tight ends in the league, they switch us from Y to F to Z, whatever it is, so we have to know the whole concept as well as the quarterback (knows it),” Hockenson said. “So it’s one of those things where, yeah, they need to start paying us a little better. There’s nothing short of that.”
Asked if he’s begun thinking about his next business move, Hockenson said, “I’ll be thinking about it here in the next couple of years.”
Hockenson is currently under contract with the Lions through the 2023 season as the team recently announced they have opted to use his fifth-year option.
But what about beyond that? Will T.J. Hockenson be around when the Lions are ready to (hopefully) win big?
Well, that all depends.
You can bet that as long as Hock continues on the trajectory he is on that Lions GM Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell will want to keep him around for as long as possible. But, you can also bet that Hockenson will want to get paid top dollar on his next contract, which is exactly what he should do.
My guess is that if the time comes and Hockenson demands to be paid like a top wide receiver or offensive tackle, Holmes and Campbell will make a decision that will upset quite a few fans. But even if he is only demanding to be the top-paid tight end in the league, what will still be too rich for a smart GM to pay.
Prediction: This will not be a popular opinion but the Detroit Lions will allow Hockenson to hit free agency following the 2023 season.
What do you think?