Vikings acquiring TE Chris Herndon from Jets in trade following Irv Smith Jr.'s knee injury

The Minnesota Vikings needed a replacement for Irv Smith Jr. following his knee injury. They found one via trade.

Minnesota is trading for Jets tight end Chris Herndon, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Vikings are sending a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Jets in exchange for Herndon and a 2022 sixth-round selection, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The Vikings later announced the trade.

To facilitate the trade, the Jets paid Herndon a signing bonus of roughly $1.4 million while the Vikings will pay only the $920,000 minimum salary, Pelissero added.

Herndon's move to Minnesota signals the start of a new opportunity for a tight end many have been waiting on for a productive season. A 2018 fourth-round pick out of Miami (Fla.), Herndon has long been a favorite of fantasy owners who fancy themselves as football sleuths, picking the tight end with the belief they're ahead of the game.

Herndon has yet to prove them right, though. After catching 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, Herndon has played just 17 games over the last two seasons, gaining 294 yards and scoring three touchdowns on 32 receptions. Herndon missed all but one game in 2019 due to injury, and failed to recreate his rookie season in what proved to be his final campaign in New York.

Promise remains, however, with the trade involving Herndon, who will step into a role vacated by Smith due to a meniscus injury.

A former second-round pick in the 2019 draft, Smith also hasn't yet broken out at the tight end position, finishing with over 300 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons while catching less than 40 passes in either campaign. But 2021 offered promise for Smith, who stood out in preseason action and was gaining momentum entering the 2021 regular season -- that is, until his meniscus injury, which will require surgery and sideline him for an undetermined amount of time.

The type of surgery Smith undergoes could determine his availability. A trim of the meniscus preserves his chances of playing in 2021, while a full repair would likely end his season before it begins.

In theory, Minnesota's wide-zone scheme sets up well to find Smith in open field when building out of play action. His run-after-catch ability -- Smith gained over 36 percent of his receiving yards after the catch last season -- leads one to believe he's just a higher volume of targets from becoming a legitimate contributor. But the meniscus injury will obviously interrupt his chances of making a difference for Minnesota.

Herndon, another athletic pass-catcher who hasn't yet produced at a consistent rate while also dealing with the tumult of the dysfunctional Jets, could replace Smith and benefit from such a focus.

If anything, the trade gives Herndon a fresh start in an offense that seems better suited to utilize his skills. With Dalvin Cook powering Minnesota's offensive attack, quarterback Kirk Cousins is often afforded the chance to use run fakes to find open targets. Herndon's physical capability should allow him to play at least somewhat of a positive role once he gains an understanding of Minnesota's offense.

For the Jets, they move on from a tight end who didn't develop into the effective target they'd hoped he'd become. It's a new era in New York and one that didn't include Herndon in their plans, as evidenced by Tuesday's swap.

Perhaps he'll work his way into Minnesota's plans in 2021.

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