By Craig Peters
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.