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Minnesota Vikings Acquire Tight End Chris Herndon From New York Jets After Irv Smith Jr.'s Knee InjuryFLORHAM PARK, NJ – Chris Herndon (#89) of the New York Jets works out during a morning practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on July 29, 2021 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo : Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings strengthened their tight end position just days after losing Irv Smith Jr. to injury, acquiring Chris Herndon and a 2022 sixth-round pick from the New York Jets in exchange for their fourth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Jets paid Herndon a signing bonus of around $1.4 million to facilitate the deal, while the Vikings will pay their new tight end a minimum salary of $920,000.

Herndon fills the Vikings’ need for a tight end

The Vikings decided to pull the trigger on the trade after Smith Jr. underwent surgery for a meniscus injury. Smith Jr., who recorded at least 300 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons, was poised to become the Vikings’ starting tight end for the 2021 campaign after impressing in the preseason.

The Vikings now hope that Herndon can fill the void created by Smith Jr.’s absence and be a major contributor to their offense. He showed glimpses of his potential last season with the Jets, recording 31 receptions for 287 yards (9.3 yards per catch) and three touchdowns.

Herndon, who started in 13 out of the Jets’ 16 games last season, generated a solid rating of 108.3 for Jets quarterbacks last campaign. Seventeen out of his 31 catches last season yielded first downs for New York, with Herndon, targeted a total of 45 times.

It was a huge bounce-back season for Herndon, who missed all but one game in the 2019 campaign. Herndon started that year on the sidelines due to suspension before a late injury ended his turbulent season.

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Vikings hoping to unleash Herndon’s potential

That 2019 season was a huge letdown for Herndon as he was coming off a spectacular rookie year in 2018. The Jets looked like they struck gold with Herndon after selecting him in the fourth round of the 2018 Draft as the 107th overall pick as he became one of their key players, starting in 12 and playing in all 16 of New York’s games that season.

Herndon caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four receiving scores, placing him in the top-five all-time among New York Jets rookies in each of those said categories. The four touchdowns that Herndon scored that season were the most ever by a rookie tight end in the Jets’ history.

The Vikings hope Herndon can rediscover his early promise and turn his career around in Minnesota. The Vikings’ wide-open scheme can benefit Herndon, who is an athletic pass-catcher. Kirk Cousins can utilize Herndon’s physical presence and find him some open looks once the defense collapses on the Vikings’ main offensive weapon Dalvin Cook.