Looking to add another weapon to their offense while offsetting the temporary loss of starting tight end Irv Smith Jr. suffering a high ankle sprain, the Minnesota Vikings struck a blockbuster deal with their NFC North division rival on NFL trade deadline day.
The Vikings traded for Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions in a rare in-season trade between two teams who face each other twice per year.
Here are the full trade details per Tom Pelissero.
- Minnesota Vikings trade: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick
- Detroit Lions trade: T.J. Hockenson, 2023 fourth-round pick, 2024 fourth-round pick (conditional – if Vikings win a playoff game, pick converts to fifth-round)
With the NFL trade deadline wrapping up today at 4 PM ET, the Vikings knew they had to strike quickly if they wanted to get a deal done. Yet with how banged up they are at the tight end position, with only Johnny Mundt and practice squad call-up Jacob Hollister on the roster aside from the now-injured Smith (out 8-10 weeks), general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah saw an opportunity to add another playmaker and paid the price.
How T.J. Hockenson can give Minnesota Vikings a top-five offense
Kirk Cousins has stepped into the Kevin O’Connell offense and performed admirably, leading his team to a 6-1 start with the ninth-highest-scoring offense in football. This is in large part to how much attention Justin Jefferson commands on a weekly basis.
But as we’ve seen through the team’s first seven games, they cannot always count on Jefferson being open. Adam Thielen is a polished pro whose best work is done in the red zone, but the Vikings needed a bit more help getting into scoring position.
Adding Hockenson, one of the best tight ends in football, can help take some of the pressure off Jefferson, Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. Hockenson may not be a 1,000-yard receiver like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but he’s in the very next tier. Just 25, Hockenson’s best season to date came in his second year, catching 67 passes for 723 receiving yards while working with Matthew Stafford.
He’s off to an even better start through seven games this season, catching passes from Jared Goff as the top option in the Detroit offense.
- T.J. Hockenson stats: 26 receptions, 395 receiving yards, 3 TD catches
Based on the limited availability of Irv Smith since being drafted in 2019, having played just 36 games, the new regime felt they wanted to add a top weapon at the tight end position and solve the area of need once and for all.
Hockenson is a receiver first and a blocker second, but the 6-foot-5 tight end gives Cousins what will now be his largest target, much like the 6-foot-6 Kyle Rudolph provided in his heyday. Don’t expect to see Johnny Mundt with as big of a pass-catching role on gameday once Smith heals up.
The eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Iowa, Hockenson is set to earn just $500K for the rest of 2022, which made this deal affordable for the cap-strapped Vikings. He’s also under contract through 2023, when he’ll earn $9.3M. But expect the Vikings to work out a long-term extension for their newest acquisition. For now, Hockenson slots in as likely the third or possibly second option after Jefferson.