JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are sending cornerback CJ Henderson, the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for tight end Dan Arnold.
The deal Monday also includes a swap of draft picks in 2022: Jacksonville gets Carolina’s third-rounder, the Panthers get a fifth-rounder in return from the Jaguars.
Trading Henderson fills a need for Carolina (3-0) and unloads a headache for the Jaguars (0-3).
Panthers first-round pick Jaycee Horn broke a bone in his right foot against Houston on Thursday night and could miss the rest of the season. Henderson had become Jacksonville’s latest first-round flop.
Henderson injured a shoulder early in his rookie season and hasn’t been the same since. He struggled physically — and mentally — to deal with the setback and then landed on injured reserve in mid-November because of a strained groin. He missed half the year and needed labrum surgery in the offseason.
His state of mind was a topic of discussion again during training camp. Henderson tested positive for COVID-19 when he reported to camp in July and sat out 10 days. He returned briefly before missing a scrimmage for “personal reasons.”
Assistant head coach Charlie Strong acknowledged that he and Meyer went to Henderson’s apartment for “a conversation.”
“Any time you have a great young man like that, you want to make sure that you do everything possible to help him and to help him get back on track,” Strong said last month.
A knee injury to Tre Herndon helped Henderson regain his starting spot, but Henderson’s play in the first two games was mostly lackadaisical. He injured a groin muscle last week and was inactive in a 31-19 loss to Arizona.
Jacksonville clearly had concerns about Henderson’s long-term future with the franchise months ago. The team gave cornerback Shaquill Griffin a three-year, $40 million deal in free agency, re-signed Herndon and drafted Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell with the first pick in the second round.
The Jags had more pressing needs (safety, pass rusher, offensive line, tight end) but instead grabbed an insurance policy for Henderson.
Henderson was one of the fastest guys at the NFL combine in 2020. He covered the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and was ranked higher on some draft boards than Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who went third overall to Detroit.
The Jaguars had no red flags on Henderson, a three-year starter in nearby Gainesville who finished his college career with 93 tackles, 22 pass breakups and four sacks.
But Henderson raised eyebrows by going on a late-night Twitter rant from a McDonald’s early during 2020 training camp – he missed a few practices afterward because of an “illness” – and didn’t speak to the media until his performance in last year’s season opener.
He’s hasn’t been made available since, either, and the Jaguars said the NFL recently gave them permission to keep him off limits.
Now, he gets a fresh start.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have another failed first-round pick on their draft resume, a growing list that includes defensive lineman Taven Bryan (2019), running back Leonard Fournette (2017), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (2016), linebacker Dante Fowler (2015), quarterback Blake Bortles (2014), left tackle Luke Joeckel (2013) and receiver Justin Blackmon (2012).
As for Arnold, he became expendable with the emergence of Panthers rookie tight end Tommy Tremble, who had a 7-yard touchdown run and a 30-yard reception against the Texans.
Jacksonville’s tight end room has been a disappointment, with Chris Manhertz failing to get a reception the last two weeks and James O’Shaughnessy (ankle) on injured reserve. Rookie Luke Farrell and Jacob Hollister had bad drops in back-to-back games.