March, 15, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com
Some quick thoughts on the Jets' latest defection -- TE Dustin Keller leaving to take his talents to South Beach for a one-year contract with the Dolphins:
QUESTIONABLE MOVE: I can understand why the Jets let RB Shonn Greene, S LaRon Landry, S Yeremiah Bell and, to a lesser extent, DT Mike DeVito walk out the door, but this Keller situation puzzles me. He's only 28, still in his prime. He's a pass-catching tight end whose skills would've translated nicely into Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast system. He probably didn't break the bank with the Dolphins (guessing around $3 million), so the cost wouldn't have been prohibitive. It's not like they have no cap space; the latest estimate is about $14 million under the cap. It seems that new GM John Idzik has it in his mind that he has to strip down the entire operation.
TOUGH MARKET: Obviously, Keller wanted a long-term deal, but he was undermined by two factors: The tight end market dried up quickly, and his value took a hit because he missed eight games last season due to hamstring and ankle injuries. The durability question is bogus because he didn't miss a game in his first four seasons. He got unlucky at the worst time. Stuff happens. At the end of the season, he talked about not wanting the franchise tag because it afforded no long-term security. As it turned out, he got a scaled-down version of a franchise tag.
NOW WHAT?: The Jets' starting tight end will be Jeff Cumberland, a restricted free agent who received the low tender ($1.3 million). This is troubling. He played in 55 percent of the offensive snaps last season, finishing with 29 catches for 359 yards and three touchdowns -- all career highs. He has the athletic ability, but I wonder if he has the route-running discipline to thrive in a West Coast offense. He doesn't have the same rapport with QB Mark Sanchez that Keller did.
MIAMI NICE: Well, say this for the Dolphins: They're winning the offseason. Of course, that doesn't mean anything. Remember the "Dream Team" Eagles of two years ago? That said, I think Keller will be a good pick-up for them. Coach Joe Philbin employs a West Coast attack, and Keller will give them more in the passing game than his predecessor, Anthony Fasano (Chiefs). Because he's on a one-year contract, Keller will be highly motivated in advance of another bite at free agency.