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Should the New York Jets trade for C.J. Henderson?

Should Joe Douglas and the NY Jets trade for Jaguars CB C.J. Henderson?
Joe Douglas, C.J. Henderson, NY Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Does C.J. Henderson make sense for the New York Jets?

The 2021 New York Jets look substantially better than their 2020 counterparts. Energy has been restored to the organization through a new starting quarterback and a new head coach. Plus, there are clear talent upgrades at the wide receiver, running back, offensive line, and defensive line positions.

The one position where the team has arguably declined is at cornerback. And yes, you better believe Joe Douglas should at least inquire into acquiring C.J. Henderson’s services.

This past offseason, the Jets allowed underrated slot cornerback Brian Poole to walk in free agency. They only addressed the position with three Day 3 picks in the NFL draft. The team didn’t bring in a true veteran presence and only has one player at the position older than 25 (special teams ace Justin Hardee). None of the players in the group have were drafted earlier than the fifth round, either.

Blessuan Austin and Bryce Hall seem like potential favorites to land the outside starting jobs, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be the starting slot cornerback for the Jets.

New York’s cornerback woes bring us down to Jacksonville.

Yesterday, rumors broke out speculating that the Jaguars may be intent on dealing their 2020 first-round selection, cornerback C.J. Henderson.

It’s surprising to see a rumor like this after only one season of work. But new head coaches have a tendency of moving on from players they didn’t draft. This may be in conjunction with other issues in Jacksonville.

After a fantastic Week 1 of the 2020 season, the rest of Henderson’s rookie year was rough. He would suffer a groin injury early in the season before ultimately ending the year on injured reserve. Henderson would only play eight games for a Jaguars team that went 1-15.

Per PFF, Henderson raked in a coverage grade of 58.3, good for 61st out of 98 qualified cornerbacks (min. 250 coverage snaps).

On the surface, that’s the furthest thing from impressive. But that was the highest coverage grade by a cornerback on the Jaguars and the fifth-highest by a rookie cornerback. When you realize Henderson accomplished those things despite missing the second half of the season and having his rookie training camp annihilated by COVID-19, it makes the number easier to swallow.

Rookie cornerbacks are notorious for experiencing a learning curve at the position. There is a lot of nuance that goes into coverage ability, and being on a terrible team can certainly alter perspective. For Jets fans, that sentiment should be echoed after seeing numerous players falter in New York only to excel elsewhere.

Despite having a rough 2020, there’s no debate that Henderson is an incredible talent. Per Player Profiler, Henderson ranks at the 91st percentile among cornerbacks with his 4.39 40-yard dash. His “speed score” – which combines speed and size – places him at the 98th percentile in speed score amongst his peers.

Henderson was a consensus top-20 prospect in the 2020 NFL draft for a reason.

Considering the state of the New York cornerback room, it would be logical for Douglas to inquire.

Even though Robert Saleh is expected to run more of a zone-heavy scheme (Henderson fits better in man coverage), Henderson would be the only cornerback on the team who could hold their own in man coverage on a consistent basis.

Saleh insists on looking for players in the secondary that can step up on third-downs, and Henderson has shown in limited time to be that player at Florida and briefly with the Jaguars.

Take nothing away from Austin, Hall, and the rest of the Jets’ cornerback room, but they don’t have the All-Pro potential of a player like Henderson, who is still only 22 years old. Pair him with a defensive-minded head coach like Saleh (and a great cornerbacks coach like Tony Oden) and the potential is unlimited.

Potential price tag

Given Henderson’s age and potential, it’s unlikely that he will be a cheap asset to acquire. The Jets, however, are one of the few teams with the capital to make a move if they wished to do so.

New York has the Seattle Seahawks’ 2021 first-round pick courtesy of the Jamal Adams trade. That could be an excellent chip in negotiation. That pick, a later pick, and a player – or some combination of these three – may be the potential price tag to get Henderson from Jacksonville.

Personally, if I’m Douglas, I at least inquire about the price tag for Henderson. Because of his age, potential, and the Jets’ massive need at the position, Henderson is a perfect target for the Jets to look at adding to their team this year.

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Braden Bethwaite
Braden Bethwaite
2 years ago

Sounds like a trap to me, I’m not convinced. I’d rather wait and use that capital to trade up in the 2022 draft

2 years ago

I’m not trading a first for him. There is a reason they are trying to unload him after 1 year. If we talk a 3, maybe go up to one of our 2s. Never hurts to check in.

2 years ago

High risk, potentially high reward. Not a great fit, very expensive but it would be nice to inject talent into the CB Room