The Minnesota Vikings are set at the tight end position for the next several seasons.
After locking up their pass-catching option at the position in a deal with the Detroit Lions for T.J. Hockeson at last year’s trade deadline, the Vikings filled their run-blocking needs on the edge by signing former Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver to a three-year deal on Monday, March 13.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network broke the news via Twitter.
“The #Vikings have agreed to terms with TE Josh Oliver on a three-year, $21 million deal, source says,” Garafolo reported. “He gets $10.75 million guaranteed and has incentives that can take the deal up to $24 million. One of the best blocking tight ends in the league.”
Oliver Found Stride With Ravens as Elite Run-Blocking TE
Oliver hardly filled up the stat sheet as a receiver in Baltimore, but that wasn’t his role there and won’t be his role once he takes the field in a Vikings uniform either.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected the tight end out of San Jose State University with the No. 69 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He appeared in four games and earned one start as a rookie, playing 117 offensive snaps for the Jags across those appearances, which translates into roughly 42% of Jacksonville’s offensive snaps across those four contests.
Multiple foot and back injuries plagued Oliver throughout his first two NFL seasons, and he was unable to play even one regular season snap in 2020 before the Jaguars traded him to Baltimore for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Oliver proved much healthier and more productive upon becoming a Raven. He tallied 23 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns over his two years in Baltimore, per Pro Football Reference, though his true value was as a blocker in the team’s often elite rushing attack. Pro Football Focus graded Oliver out at 71.5 in 2022, valuing him among the top half of tight end performers across the NFL last season.
Vikings Hope to Extend Tight End T.J. Hockenson Long-Term
The length of Oliver’s deal locks him in with the Vikings through 2025. His partner in the tight end room, Hockenson, will play in Minnesota next season on the fifth-year team option of his rookie contract for roughly $9.4 million. However, the Vikings are expected to extend Hockenson long-term as early as this offseason.
The two-time Pro Bowler made 86 catches for 914 yards and six touchdowns last season, per Pro Football Reference, statistics that were split between seven games with the Lions and 10 games with the Vikings.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell discussed the likelihood of an extension and the logic behind it, as well as Minnesota’s logic behind making the trade, in a piece authored on November 3.
The Vikings should have their new tight end under contract for at least a season and a half, though I suspect they’ll talk about an extension before then. In fact, I suspect it’s one of the reasons why they made this trade.
The Vikings have a superstar wideout in Justin Jefferson and they’re going to be giving him a massive extension this offseason. In thinking about a second veteran for this offense over the next few years behind Jefferson, it’s reasonable to look at a tight end such as Hockenson and wonder whether he’s a better option than paying the same price for a less-talented wide receiver.
Hockenson isn’t a slouch when it comes to blocking either, though Oliver will be the change-of-pace tight end out in front of running back Dalvin Cook, if the Vikings don’t trade or cut him in the coming days, or free agent and former backup running back Alexander Mattison, assuming he and the team can work out a new contract.