Detroit Lions exercise fifth-year option on TJ Hockenson’s rookie contract
ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions have exercised the fifth-year option on tight end TJ Hockenson’s rookie contract, a move expected given his growing importance on the offense.
Heck, general manager Brad Holmes said he was going to do it last week.
“(If a long-term extension) doesn’t happen, then we would intend to get that fifth-year option,” Holmes said.
The decision is now clear, although Hockenson’s arrival in Detroit was a bumpy one in 2019. He was picked with the eighth overall pick and then immediately booed at the Lions’ own draft party at team headquarters. But that had more to do with first-round mishaps like Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron than anything else. Teams don’t usually take first-round tight ends, let alone top 10, and here are the Lions – already the leader in first-round tight ends for the past decade – doing it again, and in the top 10 no less.
Then-general manager Bob Quinn said he knew the pick would be unpopular, but he had to stick to his beliefs. And though Quinn did a lot of damage during his time in Detroit, he made that decision well. Hockenson was pretty good as a rookie, then doubled his output in a breakout season in 2020. He caught 67 passes, which led all tight ends in the NFC, for 723 yards and six touchdowns, while becoming the Lions’ first tight end to make the Pro Bowl since David Sloan in 1999.
Hockenson lost Matthew Stafford after the season but quickly became Jared Goff’s favorite target last summer. He was also on the verge of breaking all of his numbers in his Pro Bowl season, until he suffered a thumb injury that ultimately ended his season in November. He finished with 61 catches for 583 yards and four touchdowns.
“Obviously it’s a big part of what we did last year,” Holmes said. “It was unfortunate when he became unavailable for us (through injury), but he is another (player) we will continue to rely on this year.”
Holmes said he wanted to try and work out a long-term extension with Hockenson and cornerback Amani Oruwariye, another part of the team’s young core.
“These guys will be important discussions that we need to have going forward, but these guys are productive players for us and we’re delighted with them this year,” Holmes said.