After a quiet Day 2 and 3 of free agency, in which the Miami Dolphins spent time meeting with unrestricted free agents, they made another splash to improve the team on Day 4. Following a meeting with tight end Dustin Keller for the majority of the past 48 hours, the two sides were able to agree to terms on a one year contract worth $4.25 million, bringing the former New York Jet to South Beach.
With the departure of Anthony Fasano to Kansas City on a four year deal, the Dolphins were left with a void at tight end. The addition of the 28 year old Keller provides Miami with a reliable pass catcher who is a threat in the redzone. His blocking is adequate however he makes up for it with impressive speed for a tight end. Keller is a difficult cover for linebackers and safeties due to his athleticsm as well as still having untapped potential despite finding success in a system that was a challenge to thrive in. The move also weakens a division rival by creating even more holes in a Jets offense that struggled mightly to move the ball last season. Keller was a candidate for the franchise tag however the decision was ultimately passed on considering the Jets lack of salary cap room with other needs to address.
Over the first five years of his NFL career, Keller has 241 recpetions for 2,876 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns. Before missing eight games in 2012, Keller never missed a game in four seasons in the league. Although he only played half the season, he recorded a respectable 317 yards on 28 recpetions with 2 touchdowns.
The addition provides Ryan Tannehill with one of the best security blankets in the league and gives him another piece to succeed with in 2013. This was a smart signing for General Manager Jeff Ireland who didn't give in to the pressure of landing a tight end, instead waiting to gauge the market and acquired an impact player without making a long term comitment. In fact, Ireland got great value from his plan B at the position after his top target Jared Cook landed a mega contract elsewhere. The one year deal will allow the Dolphins front office to determine if Keller is a long term solution and if he fits in the offensive system that will be implemented. Low risk, high reward signing.
While this is a step forward in the right direction, the Dolphins may not be done upgrading at tight end depending on how confident they are in the current core at the position with the exception of Keller. I would expect them to draft one in the middle rounds.
Jeff Ireland deserves a lot of credit on this acquisition. He showed the ability to close on a top free agent while ensuring that the commitment does not put the team in a riggid cap situation in the future.