EAGAN, Minn. — T.J. Hockenson enjoyed his first partial season in Purple — and so did the Vikings.
More full seasons with Minnesota are on the way after Hockenson signed a four-year extension Thursday ahead of what was set to be his final year on his rookie contract.
Hockenson thanked the Wilf family ownership group of the Vikings, leadership of the team, his family, fiancé and agent for their roles.
"It's just been an incredible year to be here, be part of the Minnesota Vikings, be a part of this organization and really be a part of this city," Hockenson said after Thursday's practice. "These fans, it's truly incredible to be here.
"It's truly a good fit for me here, and I've known that since day one," he continued. "I've expressed that to you guys and the fans since day one, that this is the place I want to be long-term. And to have that done and to be able to move forward with that and really have dreams come into a reality is incredible. I'm super excited to first and foremost be here, so that's what it is.
Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah announced the agreement at the start of a media session he and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell held Thursday morning.
"I'm excited about that. He fits our culture. He's the type of player that we want around here in Minnesota," Adofo-Mensah said. "Really excited to get it done. I just want to thank his representatives, Kevin, [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Rob [Brzezinski], [Manager of Football Administration] Emily [Badis]. A lot of people in this building do a lot of great work, late nights into this."
As they sometimes have in a year-plus of working together, O'Connell picked up from Adofo-Mensah and continued the thought.
"Thrilled to know we've got T.J. here as a major part of our core on offense," O'Connell said. "I think when we got him last season, our hopes [were] that we were acquiring a player that would become a major part of our offense moving forward.
"We saw the immediate impact over those 10 games, 11 games, what he was able to do," O'Connell added. "We've been able to build on T.J.'s role here, really have a great process throughout the offseason of what it's going to look like within our offensive system for a major player like T.J. to be a part of it, and just knowing our young core that we do have, our quarterback and where he's at coming out of training camp, I'm very excited about our offensive side."
The deal means "speculation season" regarding Hockenson's future with the team can yield to the 2023 regular season in which he's expected to play another large role in Minnesota's passing game.
The Vikings team that traded for him on Nov. 1 and threw the football his direction nine times five days later (resulting in nine catches and 70 yards at Washington) envisioned him in the long-term plans and for plenty of good reasons.
After showing he could catch on fast against the Commanders, Hockenson totaled 60 receptions for 519 yards and three scores on 86 targets in 10 games (seven starts) with Minnesota. He played 90 percent or more of the Vikings offensive snaps in six games and at least 77 percent in nine contests. The lone exception was at Chicago in the regular-season finale when Minnesota limited action for starters.
Hockenson's 26 receptions in his first four Vikings games set an NFL record for receptions by a tight end in his first four games with a team, and his 60 receptions over the final 10 weeks of 2022 trailed only Travis Kelce's 63 at the position.
The native of Chariton, Iowa, turned in a prolific performance against the Giants in Week 16, catching 13 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
His 13 catches:
· were the most by an NFL tight end in a game in 2022.
· set a record for most catches by a Vikings tight end in any game.
· are tied for 13th all-time by a tight end since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
· are tied for fourth among all Vikings in a single game.
· are the most by a Vikings player in a game the team won.
It was one of three games with 100-plus receiving yards for Hockenson in 2022. He set a career-high with 179 for Detroit at Seattle in Week 4, becoming the NFL's first tight end to post more than 175 yards, catch two touchdowns and score a 2-point conversion in one game.
He also caught 10 passes for 129 yards on 11 targets in Minnesota's playoff loss to the Giants.
Hockenson was set to enter 2023 on a fifth-year option that was extended to his rookie contract by the Lions in April 2022. Detroit drafted him No. 8 overall out of Iowa in 2019. Hockenson began his pro career with 131 yards at Arizona, setting an NFL record for a tight end in his first career game.
View the best photos of Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson from the 2022 season.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection (2020 and 2023), Hockenson has played in 57 regular-season games during his NFL tenure, making 49 starts. He has tallied 2,587 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns on 246 receptions.
O'Connell said he appreciated Hockenson from afar since the start of his career, and that viewpoint was further increased when O'Connell began working with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles in 2021. O'Connell saw plenty of moments by Hockenson on the film he was studying of Stafford's later years with Detroit.
"A lot of times, he was throwing to T.J. on that inside-out feel to certain aspects of our passing game. T.J. is a dynamic, route-running tight end that can win routes in 1-on-1 settings versus linebackers/safeties," O'Connell said. "We can move him all over the formation, and then I do think he's a three-down player. I think he can have a role in, and has shown to be willing and able in, the run game and play-pass game. As I tell him sometimes, 'Most of the time we're dropping back to throw, I want you in the pattern, but every now and then, with the marriage of the run and the pass, there's going to be sometimes you've got to do that.'
"That's the best thing about T.J. He does anything that you ask him to do," O'Connell added. "He's capable to do those things, and then you pair him in that room with those other three tight ends, you feel like you've got a complete group to really attack a lot of different ways."
Hockenson was limited a bit in training camp but worked out on side fields last week when Minnesota hosted Arizona for joint practices. O'Connell said he was "pretty close" to fully participating in Wednesday's practice and "we'll just continue to progress him on a timeline leading into [Minnesota's opener against Tampa Bay on Sept. 10] so that he feels ready to go."