Instead, the Vikings made a move to improve the tight end position right now, trading the New York Jets a 2022 fourth-round pick for fourth-year tight end Chris Herndon and 2022 sixth-round pick. The Jets also covered Herndon’s $1.4 million signing bonus, leaving the Vikings to pay only the $920,000 minimum salary, per NFL Network‘s Tom Pelissero.
Former Jets veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who’s played in the NFL for 19 seasons, threw the ball Herndon in the tight end’s rookie year. He found the trade for Herndon to be a “steal” for the Vikings.
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McCown Speaks Glowingly of Herndon
In an interview with the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson, McCown detailed how Herndon could contribute to the Vikings.
“If (Herndon) plays the ball he can play and he finds some consistency, this is a steal for (the Vikings),’’ McCown said. “There’s no doubt about it. Chris Herndon is a good football player. At his best, he’s as good as anybody. It’s just a matter of being consistent.’’
Herndon flashed promise as a rookie, catching 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns with McCown. He struggled since then and was relegated to a larger blocking role through the 2020 season while floundering between three different offensive coordinators.
“He’s kind of had an up-and-down career with the injuries and some of the freak things happening, but he’s got a nice skill set,’’ McCown said.
Smith was likely to see a larger target share than second tight end Tyler Conklin this season, however, Conklin is more of a receiving tight end than a blocker. Herndon could fill that void and allow Conklin to serve as a receiving back. McCown said his former teammate is equipped to catch or block.
“I think he’s above average at both,’’ McCown said. “I think he’s a better receiver than blocker. He’s still a big, physical guy that can block… He can really flourish in that (Vikings) system.”
The Vikings offense deployed two tight ends on the field for 445 plays in 2020, which ranked third in the NFL last year, per ESPN. Herndon should figure to see plenty of action while Smith is sidelined.
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Irv Smith Jr.’s Timetable to Return Unknown
Smith will undergo surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee this week.
Tomasson spoke with Dr. Sabrina M. Strickland of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgeries, who has done more than a thousand meniscus surgeries. She does not have Smith as a patient but advised if Smith needs just a trim done of his meniscus, he likely would be out three to six weeks. She said most surgeries are trims, but Smith could be out four to six months if a repair is needed.
The Vikings have not said whether Smith requires a trim or a full meniscus repair until after surgery. However, his MRI is the biggest indicator.
They’re not saying, but they should know more or less based on the MRI already,’’ Strickland said, per Tomasson.