ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Lions general manager Brad Holmes insisted he still would have traded T.J. Hockenson even if his one-win team had a 6-1 record.
The Lions traded a 25-year-old standout tight end in the division to NFC North-leading Minnesota a few hours before the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday.
While it seemed to be a sign Detroit is conceding this season is lost, Holmes said that’s not the case.
“This move was not reflective of our record,” Holmes told reporters Wednesday while the team practiced. “If our record was reversed, and it made sense for us, then we would have still done it.”
The Lions upgraded their draft positioning with two picks in exchange for perhaps its best player. Detroit acquired a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-rounder and sent a 2023 fourth-round selection and a conditional 2024 fourth-rounder to the Vikings.
The Lions (1-6) host the Green Bay Packers (3-5) on Sunday.
Minnesota was motivated to make the deal with Detroit two days after tight end Irv Smith Jr. had an ankle injury.
The Lions clearly look as if they’re making long-term decisions in their second season with Holmes as a first-time NFL general manager and second-year coach Dan Campbell, who was given a second chance to lead a team after being Miami’s interim coach in 2015.
“It made sense for them. It made sense for us,” Holmes said. “Everybody’s got a different case. People are in different windows.”
Hockenson, though, seemed like the type of player capable of helping Detroit now and in the future.
The Lions previously picked up Hockenson’s fifth-year contract option for next season. Holmes said paying him what he would want to stay beyond 2023 was only one factor in his decision to trade him.
Detroit drafted the former Iowa star with the No. 8 overall pick in 2019 and it was a rare hit for a franchise that has often missed in the NFL draft.
With a team-high 395 receiving yards, Hockenson had the highest seven-game total of his career with the Lions. He was tied for the team lead with three touchdowns and his 26 receptions ranked second. Among qualifying tight ends, he has a league-leading average of 15.2 yards per catch.
Hockenson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2020, has 186 receptions for 2,068 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. He missed the last four games of his rookie year with torn ankle ligaments and a broken leg and was out for the final five games last season for a thumb injury that needed surgery.