Jets trade Herndon, 6th-rounder to Vikings for 4th-rounder
Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021
NEW YORK — Chris Herndon’s three years in New York were marked by promising playmaking and frustrating fizzles.
The young tight end is getting a chance to put it all together in Minnesota.
The Jets traded the 25-year-old Herndon along with a 2022 sixth-round draft pick on Tuesday to the Vikings for a fourth-rounder in next year’s draft.
Herndon was taken in the fourth round in 2018 out of Miami and had a promising rookie season, catching 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. But he never quite became the consistent and reliable playmaker New York was hoping for.
He was suspended the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, stemming from a car crash in New Jersey the previous year — shortly after he was drafted. Herndon, who pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, then injured a hamstring as he was working out and preparing for his return to the field.
In his first game back, he broke a rib and landed on injured reserve. He finished with one catch for 7 yards that season. Herndon entered last season healthy and motivated, but he never seemed to get into a rhythm in Adam Gase’s offense. Drops and lapses in concentration also resulted in him catching just 31 passes for 287 yards and three TDs.
Herndon had a mostly non-descript training camp this summer working in Mike LaFleur’s offense and didn’t separate himself from a group that included Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco and Kenny Yeboah. So, the Jets decided to move on.
In fact, it appeared Kroft, a free-agent signing in March, had moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Griffin, Brown and Yeboah were all among the Jets’ 53-player cuts Tuesday.
Among the Jets’ other notable cuts included quarterbacks James Morgan, a fourth-round pick last year, and veteran Josh Johnson. That leaves just rookie Zach Wilson and Mike White, who hasn’t taken a regular-season snap, at the position.
Meanwhile, Herndon — who has 71 catches for 796 yards and seven TDs in three seasons — should step right into a starting role in Minnesota.
The Vikings found themselves in dire need of reinforcement at tight end, with a knee injury to their No. 1 option Irv Smith Jr. that will require surgery and keep him sidelined for at least a few games if not more, depending on how much repair is necessary for his meniscus.
Tyler Conklin has steadily improved as a blocker and a receiver. But after releasing 10-year veteran Kyle Rudolph during the offseason for salary cap savings, the Vikings were severely lacking experience at the position. Coach Mike Zimmer, asked Monday about the depth beyond Conklin said, “well, it’s not very good.”
The system under new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, who inherited the job and the scheme from his father Gary Kubiak, who retired earlier this year, makes frequent use of multiple tight ends to fuel a run-first attack that favors play-action passing. Zimmer said the Vikings would likely have to use more three-wide receiver formations while Smith is out.
The Vikings waived their other two tight ends on the roster, rookies Zach Davidson and Shane Zylstra, with spots on the practice squad yet to be filled. Smith could be placed on short-term injured reserve, a move that must wait until Wednesday or thereafter for him to be eligible to return after a three-game absence. Or perhaps he won’t go on IR at all, if the Vikings believe they can get him back sooner than that.
Former Jets guard Dakota Dozier, who lost his starting spot to Oli Udoh, was among the handful of veterans the Vikings released. Defensive end Everson Griffen, who just joined the team a week ago after the long-time Vikings pass rusher returned following a one-year hiatus with Dallas and Detroit, was also released but could be brought back once the many maneuverings are made around the league and teams scout who else is suddenly on the market, with rosters as always subject to change.
Now that tight end has been upgraded, the Vikings could be particularly interested in available offensive linemen, backup quarterbacks and specialists.