Minnesota sent a 2022 fourth-round pick to New York in exchange for Herndon and a 2022 sixth-round pick. The trade is pending Herndon passing a physical.
Minnesota executed the trade one day after coach Mike Zimmer announced that Irv Smith Jr. will undergo surgery this week to repair a meniscus injury he sustained in the team's preseason finale at Kansas City on Friday. Zimmer did not specify a timetable for Smith's return, which could range from several weeks to several months, given the nature of the injury.
Smith was primed for a breakout season at the time of his injury, having risen to the top of the depth chart at tight end following the departure of Kyle Rudolph during free agency. During the final four games of the 2020 season, Smith hauled in three touchdowns on 20 targets and finished the year with 30 catches for 365 yards and five scores.
Herndon showed a lot of promise as a rookie in 2018, when he caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, the 2018 fourth-round pick has struggled to replicate that production. Herndon was suspended in 2019 following a DUI arrest and injured his hamstring while working his way back onto the field. In his first game back in November 2019 against the New York Giants, Herndon cracked a rib and was placed on injured reserve.
Last season, Herndon struggled with drops and fumbles and transitioned into more of a blocking tight end. He bounced back toward the end of 2020, recording 31 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
This offseason, Herndon was on to his third offensive system in four years, and it appeared Jets coaches did not see him as a fit in a West Coast scheme. While he was still the team's strongest blocking tight end, Herndon lost his job as the team's top tight end.
Depending on how much time Smith will miss while recovering from his meniscus surgery, Herndon will help fill an important role among Vikings tight ends. Zimmer called the depth at the position "not very good" in light of Smith's injury. Minnesota is expecting its No. 2 tight end, Tyler Conklin, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since Aug. 16, to be ready to practice in full on Monday.
ESPN's Rich Cimini contributed to this report.