NFL Trade Rumors: C.J. Henderson to Panthers; Jags Receive Dan Arnold

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2021

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 20:  C.J. Henderson #23 of the Jacksonville Jaguars plays against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are reportedly "closing in" on a trade for second-year cornerback C.J. Henderson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The Jacksonville Jaguars would reportedly receive tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round draft pick in exchange for Henderson and a fifth-round pick.  

Henderson started the first two games for the Jaguars this season, totaling eight tackles, but was inactive for Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals due to a groin injury.

The 22-year-old was limited to eight games as a rookie and finished with 36 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception. While it wasn't a great return for a player the Jags selected ninth overall, he provided something on which to build.

That's why it came as a bit of a shock when ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Aug. 8 that teams outside Jacksonville were under the belief Henderson was available through trade.

The former Florida Gator had missed time during training camp while on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list and was out of a non-contact scrimmage on Aug. 8 for personal reasons. 

Mark Long of the Associated Press explained how the front office and coaching staff may have been prepping for his possible departure or demotion well before that:

"The only thing clear about Henderson's situation is the Jaguars had concerns months ago despite what [head coach Urban] Meyer said publicly. Jacksonville gave cornerback Shaquill Griffin a three-year, $40 million deal in free agency, re-signed former starters Tre Herndon and Sidney Jones and then 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."

Urban Meyer wasn't the head coach when the Jaguars selected Henderson in the draft, and Trent Baalke, who had been with the team at the time, wasn't serving in his current role as general manager. Together, they may not have felt that invested in developing the young defensive back and working through whatever issues preceded his trade.

Still, trading away a first-round pick shortly into his second season is bound to raise questions of both the team and player.

Henderson's contract alone provided the Jags with one incentive to figure things out. He's signed for three more seasons with a combined salary-cap hit of $16.8 million. That's less money than Jalen Ramsey, Marlon Humphrey and Tre'Davious White average per season.

Field Yates @FieldYates

The Panthers will inherit the remaining three years of CB CJ Henderson’s deal, which pays him as follows: 2021: $1.285M 2022: $2.475M 2023: $3.407M If Henderson holds up and plays like the prospect that landed him in the top 10 of the draft, that’s a strong value for Carolina.

And there was little reason to think Jacksonville would be able to fully recoup its investment in Henderson, so trading him at a loss was inevitable.

Those two factors make pulling the trigger on this move an obvious choice for Carolina. There's obviously a risk that whatever precipitated his exit from Jacksonville will come to the fore for the Panthers, but that's far outweighed by the upside of potentially getting a starting-caliber cornerback on a bargain contract.

The Jaguars will get more assets for a rebuild after their 0-3 start, while Arnold gives rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence another reliable weapon in the passing attack. The tight end has seven catches for 84 yards through three games this season.