Vikings Trade Jets for ‘Promising’ Irv Smith Jr. Replacement: Report

Chris Herndon

Getty The Minnesota Vikings acquired former New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon in a trade on Aug. 31, 2021.

Amid the frenzy of NFL cutdown day, the Minnesota Vikings made a trade to remedy one of the biggest concerns entering the season.

The Vikings traded the New York Jets for tight end Chris Herndon, Ian Rapoport reported. Herndon is poised to replace tight end Irv Smith Jr., who will undergo surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee.

“The Vikings have solved their tight end issue, as they are trading for promising Jets tight end Chris Herndon in exchange for draft pick compensation, sources say,” Rapoport tweeted on Tuesday. “Herndon steps right in following Irv Smith’s knee injury.”

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Herndon’s History

A 2018 fourth-round pick out of Miami, Herndon was the sixth tight end taken in his draft class. Herndon was named the Jets’ fourth tight end on the depth chart to start his rookie year. He emerged as the team’s top receiving tight end toward the end of the season, tallying 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns – becoming the team’s second-best receiving threat behind only Robby Anderson.

Herndon was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. After he was reinstated, Herndon suffered a broken rib and was shut down for the season. Herndon reemerged in 2020, catching 31 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.

NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein projected Herndon as a raw talent who has upside in the NFL.

“Herndon’s athletic ability will flash on tape, but his college production was pedestrian and he’s still very raw,” Zierlein wrote in 2018. “He has TE2 potential if he can improve his upper body strength and hand placement as a blocker. While Miami used him as a “run after the catch” option, NFL teams may lock in on his ability to threaten defenses on the second and third levels. Herndon has exciting athletic ability, but there is still plenty of room for improvement before he becomes a factor in the NFL.”

Herndon has proven to be a capable blocker and athletic receiver at the tight end position in his time in New York.

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  Vikings Offense Returns to Business as Usual

There was speculation that the Vikings would move toward more three-wide receiver sets if Smith missed considerable time with his knee injury. Smith may miss considerable time given the trade with the Jets.

However, Herndon entering the picture allows the Vikings offense to maintain business as usual.

The Vikings ran 445 plays out of two-tight end sets in 2020, which ranked third in the NFL last year, per ESPN. Smith figured to be the third in line for targets behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. That role may be split now between Herndon and fellow tight end Tyler Conklin.

Dalvin Cook could also see an increase in targets out of the backfield.

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