While the Jets offense has been anemic at all facets, the production of TE Chris Herndon has been quite alarming.
Whether it’s Herndon just not getting open or head coach Adam Gase’s offensive system not featuring tight ends enough, Herndon hasn’t been the play-making option at the position as originally thought by the team when he was drafted in 2018 out of Miami. He had a promising rookie year that tallied 502 yards, 39 receptions and four touchdowns, as Sam Darnold really liked to look his way.
But, with Herndon failing to show any signs that he can build on that year, it’s time for the Jets to start looking elsewhere.
Yes, Herndon is only 24 years old. And yes, his 2019 season was ravaged by injury. But even fully healthy right now, he has not been producing.
Just look at Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Herndon had just two targets from Darnold, one of which went for a catch. But he immediately fumbled the ball when he was hit and didn’t see it after that. His season high in yards is just 37 in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, when he caught six of his seven targets. He also fumbled in that loss.
Herndon wasn’t even targeted in the previous two weeks prior to the Chiefs game either, so if you haven’t heard his name during broadcasts, it is because he just isn’t getting involved. So what should the Jets do?
The tight end position is one that good teams use to their advantage. Look at the Green Bay Packers, for instance. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t even need a top tier playmaker – Robert Tonyan is more than enough to get the chains moving. The Bears love to target Jimmy Graham in the red zone because he is such a big threat in that area. Many other teams -- Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers -- all covet their tight ends.
Herndon had the potential to do everything – moves the chain in the middle of the field, create a threat in the red zone, and bust out big plays every now and then – but it just isn’t panning out. That’s why the Jets need to start mulling their options in either free agency, the NFL Draft, or even a trade down the road if the opportunity presents itself.
Herndon only has one year left on his rookie deal before becoming a free agent in 2022, too. If his production continues to be non-existent, the Jets might cut him if they so choose. GM Joe Douglas wasn’t the one who drafted him, so there’s no connection there. And there would only be $167,381 in dead cap if he were released before next season. Teams will be watching dead money this offseason because of COVID-19 related losses, but it’s a miniscule number compared to others.
There is still time this season to get production up and prove that he is still a valuable asset to have on offense. But Herndon is trending in the wrong direction, and it’s starting to become too late to make up for the lack of positive growth on his end.