Slow Down on the ‘Terrible Trade’ Talk for Chris Herndon

I’m not suggesting catching one touchdown suddenly makes the acquisition of Chris Herndon via trade from the New York Jets a great bit of business. It doesn’t.

However, I wasn’t comfortable jumping on the “what another terrible trade” bandwagon until I actually saw him being used. Two targets on debut against the Cincinnati Bengals failed to return a reception. Then came four weeks of nothing. His most notable output before last Sunday was a couple of penalties for holding and an illegal crackback block in the Week 5 game against the Lions. Yay.

The recent trades for Yannick Ngakoue and Kaare Vedvik leave a sour taste in mouths. Unsurprisingly, some were quick to cry out “panic trade” and his nonexistent start to the season understandably exasperated the situation. 

The injury to Irv Smith Jr, on the eve of the season left the Vikings in a bind. There was confidence in Tyler Conklin being able to shoulder the TE1 role — a job he has performed well through the opening six weeks. But there wasn’t much behind him. Rookie Zach Davidson and third-year perennial practice squad member Brandon Dillon we’re seemingly not considered able to step into the back role. Both remain with the Vikings on the practice squad.

The Trade 

One thing that irks me is people falsely commenting on what the trade pertained to — something that reared its head a lot last week with the trade of Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals for a fifth and rookie cornerback Tay Gowan. Cries that the Cardinals traded a fifth for Ertz and the Vikings traded a fourth for Herndon — we’re bellowed. 

That is not what happened.

The Eagles get a rookie corner and an expensive contract off their books when they’ve already replaced Ertz with the younger Dallas Goedert. The Vikings received a sixth-round pick from the Jets, meaning they simply moved down rather than gave away a pick. With Herndon in the last year of his contract, the Jets have already footed the bill for the player, and should the Vikings wish to move on from Herndon, it wouldn’t come without any cap ramifications.

Ben Ellefson was also picked up following release from the Jacksonville Jaguars to add competition at the tight end position. The North Dakota State Bison alumnus was a popular pickup. His role would be the primary blocking right end. He had one catch in his rookie season with the Jags and has had one target this season which he failed to corral high above his head. So, the Vikings signed veteran tight end Luke Stocker to the practice squad last week. Rather than thinking it was as cover for Ben Ellefson, who was on the injury report with a knee injury and would eventually be ruled out of the Panthers game, some jumped on it as another sign the Herndon trade was a bust.

Carving Out His Role in the Offense

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see a new player, signed on the eve of the season with no time to learn the offensive scheme, who hasn’t been used much in the early weeks of the season. That is the Vikings way under Mike Zimmer and just makes sense, especially when, except for the Browns game, the offense has played well. We finally got to see a glimmer of what Chris Herndon can do in Week 6. I don’t expect him to rival Tyler Conklin for targets anytime soon, but he does have a role to play in this offense.

Herndon proved himself capable in his rookie season with 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He won’t match those yards this season, but if he can chip in with four touchdowns and a catch or two a game., it will lead to a successful season for the Minnesota Vikings. Then, the relatively low cost of the trade will have been worth it.

It remains to be seen what his involvement will be over the coming weeks. Getting other players more involved in the offense not named Cook or Jefferson is a vital part of the evolution of this Vikings offense. That includes Chris Herndon.