Players deserve to get paid whatever clubs are willing to pay them and the Minnesota Vikings think T.J. Hockenson earned a top-market deal after arriving via trade last year. With the 2023 season inching closer, the Vikes have given Hockenson a four-year extension worth $86.5 million, making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL right now. Just a couple months ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Evan Engram a three-year deal worth $43.5 million, which looks much better in light of Hockenson's contract.
Every situation is different but the Jaguars are surely pleased they were able to secure Engram on a reasonable deal. The former Ole Miss was a fine tight end during his five-year stint with the New York Giants. Heck, he got a Pro Bowl berth in 2020 but he wasn't what you would consider a game-changer, which is one of the reasons the G-Men chose not to re-sign him.
On the other side of the aisle, tight end was one of Jacksonville's biggest needs last year and Engram was the best one available in the market, with Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki getting the franchise tag from the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins, respectively.
Not only did Engram become one of Trevor Lawrence's most trusted targets in 2022, but he also set career highs for receiving yards and receptions. Similarly, he broke several team records, most of them held by Kyle Brady. Simply, the former first-round pick brought the kind of stability Jacksonville lacked since Marcedes Lewis left in 2018. For this reason, securing him long-term became a no-brainer.
Having played the 2022 season on a one-year deal, Engram said he was open to returning to the Jags but he also wanted a contract that reflected his status as one of the top receivers in the game right now. Unfortunately, he and the Jags couldn't agree to an extension before free agency began, so he got slapped with the franchise tag.
Just a few days before the deadline to get a contract done, the Jaguars and Engram struck a deal. Had they not found common ground, he would have had to play the 2023 season on the tag and they wouldn't have been able to negotiate until next year.
By having Engram in the fold, the Jaguars are ensuring Trevor Lawrence has a wide array of weapons. In the same manner, Minnesota wanted to make sure Kirk Cousins is in a position to succeed, regardless of how long he remains behind center.
TJ Hockenson is as valuable for the Vikings as Engram is for the Jaguars
Whereas the Jaguars are stocked at wide receiver, the Vikings only have Justin Jefferson. Then again, he's one of the top, if not receivers in the game right now. With T.J. Hockenson in the lineup, teams cannot allocate as many resources to stopping (or at least trying) Jefferson. Thus, securing his services for the foreseeable future was a smart move.
Keep in mind that salaries — for almost all positions — keep going up so there's a good chance that Hockenson will no longer be the highest-paid tight end in a couple years. Also, his contract will help other players. In the offseason, Schultz and Gesicki had to settle on one-year deals because the tight-end market had deflated.
Hockenson's latest deal (and Evan Engram's to a lesser extent) shows that there's demand for the position, so don't be shocked if either Schultz or Gesicki surpasses him next year.