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Vikings trade for Jets tight end Chris Herndon, release but hope to re-sign Everson Griffen

Codrington's punt return seals win for NC Central


Aug. 31—The Vikings wasted no time addressing their need at tight end.

On Tuesday, they acquired Chris Herndon from the New York Jets along with a sixth-round draft pick, giving up a fourth-round pick in a deal the Vikings say will become official if he passes a physical. Herndon, who had 39 catches as a Jets rookie in 2018 and 31 in 2020, was acquired after the Vikings learned last weekend that starting tight end Irv Smith Jr. will miss at least the beginning of the season with a torn meniscus. He will have knee surgery this week.

Tuesday was the deadline for teams to cut rosters down to the NFL limit of 53 for the regular season, which gets underway for Minnesota on Sept. 12 at Cincinnati. The most notable player let go was defensive end Everson Griffen, but he doesn’t have to go through waivers due to being released as a vested veteran, and indications are the Vikings are likely to re-sign him.

The Vikings soon could have several open roster spots after they place some players on injured reserve, with those players having to miss at least three games. Smith and tackle Christian Darrisaw, who has a groin injury, are candidates for injured reserve. And a source said rookie running back Kene Nwangwu, who hyperextended a knee in an Aug. 14 preseason game against Denver, will be placed on injured reserve.


Other players released who don’t have to go through waivers were long snapper Andrew DePaola, running back Ameer Abdullah, guard Dakota Dozier and cornerback Tye Smith. Like Griffen, all had nonguaranteed one-year minimum contracts. DePaola also could return to the team.

The most notable players let go who will have to go through waivers were quarterback Jake Browning and tight end Zach Davidson, a fifth-round draft pick out of Central Missouri. The Vikings hope to put both on the practice squad.

With Nate Stanley waived with an injury designation, that leaves rookie Kellen Mond as the only other quarterback on the roster, and he is in line to be Kirk Cousins’ backup. A source said Browning has been told he still could compete for the backup job if he is on the practice squad. The Vikings also could pick up a veteran.

With the Vikings waiving Davidson and Shane Zylstra, they would have three tight ends on the 53-man roster once Herndon arrives. The others are Tyler Conklin, the projected starter for now with Smith out, and Brandon Dillon.


Dr. Sabrina M. Strickland of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgeries, who has done more than a thousand meniscus surgeries but does not have Smith as a patient, said if the tight end needs just a trim done of his meniscus, he likely would be out from three to six weeks. She said most surgeries are trims, but if a repair is needed, Smith could be out from four to six months.

The Vikings say they won’t know how serious Smith’s injury is until the surgery is performed. In the meantime, they rebounded quickly by picking up Herndon.

“If (Herndon) plays the ball he can play and he finds some consistency, this is a steal for (the Vikings),” said former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, who played for the Jets in 2018. “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.”

Other players waived by Minnesota were defensive end Hercules Mata’afa, running back A.J. Rose Jr., cornerback Parry Nickerson, fullback Jake Bargas, tackle Zack Bailey, guard Kyle Hinton, wide receivers Whop Philyor and Myron Mitchell, linebacker Tuf Borland, defensive end Kenny Willekes and safety Myles Dorn

Wide receiver Chad Beebe, who suffered a foot injury in last Friday’s 28-25 loss at Kansas City in the preseason finale, was waived with an injury designation. He is expected to clear waivers and be out for the season while on injured reserve. Guard Dru Samia and safety Luther Kirk also were waived with injury designations.


Wide receiver and special-teams ace Dan Chisena made the 53-man roster for the second straight year.

But the big news of the day was the Vikings acquiring Herndon. He has looked good in two of his three NFL seasons, the exception being in 2019, when he caught just one pass in one game. Herndon was suspended for the first four games of that season for violating the NFL’s policy and program on substances of abuse, and soon was lost for the season with a hamstring injury.

“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.

McCown said Herndon is adept at both receiving and blocking.

“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.”


Assuming Herndon passes his physical, the Vikings will need to create a roster spot for him. But players going to injured reserve should clear several spots.