The NFL has seen a swift and significant sea change over the last year, and the Minnesota Vikings appear well ahead of the curve.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN on Thursday, November 3, took a look at the move and explained why it both helps the Vikings now and is an indicator of a forward-thinking front office.
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 drastic rise at the top of the wide receiver market last offseason increased the pay gap between wide receivers and tight ends. I typically use the value of a contract over its first three seasons to estimate how much a deal is really worth for a player and a team. The top 20 wide receiver deals pay $57.3 million over their first three seasons, while the top 20 tight end deals average just $29.3 million over that window.
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.
Vikings Approached Trade Deadline With Eye on Adding Receiver
Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported that the Vikings were prioritizing a trade for a field-stretching pass catcher via the October 25 edition of the SKOR North podcast. Speedy Houston Texans wideout Brandin Cooks was the name most often linked to Minnesota leading up to the November 1 deadline.
It is unclear whether Minnesota was always pursuing a tight end, as it is unclear whether the Lions were actively shopping Hockenson, though there were no links between the two teams via the tight end leading up to Tuesday’s eye-opening move.
The Lions hadn’t executed a trade within the NFC North Division since 1998 prior to moving Hockenson, but the Vikings recognized the value opportunity and struck the deal. Minnesota sent Detroit a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick in exchange for Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round selection and a conditional fourth-round choice in 2024.
Considering the current landscape in the NFL, it appears the Vikings got the better end of the deal. They will pay Hockenson $536,000 over the course of this season and will owe the tight end a guaranteed $9.3 million on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal next season.
Vikings Still in Mix to Add Free Agent Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The Vikings’ move for Hockenson doesn’t preclude them from adding another receiving talent on the edge, it just means they will need to do so via free agency.
The best option in that regard, and the only such player to whom Minnesota has been linked, is Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham continues to rehabilitate an ACL injury he suffered during the Super Bowl in February and is expected to return to a contender at some point between mid-November and December.
Minnesota makes sense as a one-year landing spot for several reasons. At 6-1, the Vikings hold a 3.5-game lead in the division and have a legitimate shot at the No. 2 seed in a winnable NFC. Beckham has close relationships with Jefferson, who also attended college at LSU, and head coach Kevin O’Connell, who served as Beckham’s offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams during their run to a ring last season.
Beckham is looking for a situation that will allow him to prosper statistically and highlight his skills for a third lucrative NFL contract. Playing alongside Jefferson and Hockenson with a capable quarterback in Kirk Cousins delivering Beckham the football looks like a winning formula for both sides.