T.J. Hockenson has seen another tight end with a lesser resume get a nice contract, raising the stakes for himself and the Lions.
When the Detroit Lions picked up tight end T.J. Hockenson’s fifth-year option for 2023, a contract extension felt like a formality. But the price of poker changed when the Cleveland Browns gave David Njoku a deal that exceeds his current resume, and on Wednesday the Buffalo Bills did the same with Dawson Knox.
With a $13.4 million per year average off the top, Knox now lands sixth among tight ends. Njoku, coincidentally, is fifth based on his new deal (just shy of $13.7 million per year).
In 15 games last season, Knox set career-highs with 49 catches for 587 yards and nine touchdowns. Hockenson bested that catch total (61) and nearly reached the yardage (583) in three fewer games. And that leaves out his 2020 Pro Bowl season, which was another 60-plus catch campaign for him.
Hockenson and Knox are both entering their fourth NFL season, to extend the comp just a bit.
Dawson Knox contract further raises the bar for T.J. Hockenson, the Lions
The Lions and Hockenson could agree on a contract extension at any point, with neither side laying down a known deadline–however artificial it may be. But that it’s not been done, or at least announced, with the season opener days away now means whatever talks are taking place will keep going into the season.
And with each new deal for a tight end, with Njoku’s in May and Knox’s this week particularly elevating the market, the price goes up for the Lions to keep Hockenson on a market value extension. An ask of $14-$15 million per year is no longer a reach for Hockenson’s side.
It has now become a pertinent question if the Lions should extend Hockenson or running back D’Andre Swift, without a totally clear answer as both enter critical seasons in their careers.
In some way, with him under contract through next season, the Lions may not feel a great sense of urgency to pony up with a new deal for Hockenson (especially as the price goes up). He may be willing to play it out a little longer, into the season, to fortify that he’s worth what the market says he is.
It doesn’t seem to be a contentious situation between the Lions and Hockenson, with both sides outwardly having said they want to stay together for awhile. But contract matters aren’t always easy or cut and dry. The stakes are only getting higher for player and team here as time passes, and lesser tight ends get paid.