The Minnesota Vikings have dealt with the usual injuries in training camp. Trishton Jackson suffered a knee injury. At first, it was considered serious, but there was no structural damage. Kene Nwangwu and Jalen Nailor have missed some time, lowering the chances that they can earn a significant role. The only severe injury happened to James Lynch, and the defensive tackle is out for the season with a torn ACL.
The T.J. Hockenson Speculation Was Completely Unwarranted
Another player who has missed practice time is tight end T.J. Hockenson. Many speculated that he might perform a hold-in, the same strategy as Danielle Hunter, before signing his new deal. Of course, Hockenson is about to sign his contract extension, so it was possible. A hold-in is the new form of a hold-out, preventing huge fines but protecting the player from injury.
That speculation turned out to be useless as he suffered from an ear infection that affected his equilibrium, and he couldn’t take part in practices because of it, as he explained on Monday:
“I had an ear infection that has messed with my equilibrium. So I’m just taking it slow and trying to get back as quickly as I can. I want to be out there with the boys obviously, my favorite thing is playing football with the guys in the locker room and having a great time with them, so it stinks but I gotta get ready for September and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Hockenson is a crucial part of Kevin O’Connell’s offense. That’s why the Vikings went out and traded for him right before last year’s trade deadline. The tight end has been sensational since he got to Minnesota, becoming Kirk Cousins’ security blanket and an excellent threat all over the field, especially when defenses focus on Justin Jefferson.
He ranked second among tight ends with 914 yards and 86 catches. That is not including his most productive games in the postseason, when he was seemingly the only open player throughout the contest. In 11 games with the Vikes (including the playoff matchup with the Giants), he caught 70 passes for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The decision-makers have made it clear that they view Hockenson as a key piece of their team going forward, so a contract extension is just a matter of time. He will not be cheap, and the recent tight end contracts suggest that he will earn something in the neighborhood of $15 million per season. That, in addition to the logical deal with Jefferson, will be huge investments, granted, for excellent players.
Currently, Hockenson is playing on his fifth-year option, which pays him roughly $9.3 million, a number he will easily top once the two parties can agree on a new contract.
As long as Hockenson is out, it is on Johnny Mundt and new addition Josh Oliver to run the show in the tight end group. Oliver’s presence could unlock even more for Hockenson in the passing game, as he doesn’t have to be the primary blocker. Certainly, his versatility is about to increase.
The concerns about a possible hold-in were overblown as neither the Vikings nor Hockenson seemed to stress about the contract situation. O’Connell wants his top tight end back for the joint practices, something he is convinced is very important, but it remains to be seen if that can happen.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt