Patriots Expected to Pursue Free Agent TE Dustin Keller


Aug 9, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA;Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller (81) catches the ball for a touchdown as Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Chris Prosinski (42) attempted to defend during the first quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Keller a Post-Draft Target for the Pats

The former New York Jets’ tight end and free agent Dustin Keller could very well be a post-draft target for the New England Patriots, based on a report from CSN New England’s Tom Curran.

Keller, 29, spent four years with the Jets before departing to the Miami Dolphins last season. The former Purdue Boilermaker was one of the Jet’s most notable offensive weapons, especially when the Dolphins played the Patriots. He tallied a career-high 815 yards receiving as a Jet in 2010 and a 12.5 yards per catch average in both 2010 and 2011.

However, the pass-catching tight end is coming off of a terrible leg injury. Against the Houston Texans, safety D.J. Swearinger went for a low hit on Keller, tearing his MCL, ACL, and PCL as well as dislocating his knee. Supposedly, the rookie had said that he was trying to avoid league fines with his aggressive tackle.

Regardless, given the fact that the 2014 NFL Draft is almost here, the Pats would inquire about Keller post-draft time, probably in the summer when the front office fully understands his injury status for the coming season.

If the Patriots take a tight end in the draft, the possibility of New England signing Keller noticeably decreases. But still, he does add veteran qualities to the team that could entice Belichick and Co. to aquire him anyway.

Ever since Aaron Hernandez was arrested, the Patriots haven’t had exceptional TE production as they did in years prior. New England hasn’t fought hard for a free agent tight end this year because you couldn’t definitively say that a tight end on the market would replace Hernandez. Keller is obviously not that guy.

Nevertheless, you can’t say that he definitely won’t meet the Hernandez standard because time and time again, we’ve seen older players revitalized during their time in Foxboro.

Overall, Keller would definitely help a group of tight ends that is definitely not the strongest group in the NFL. Even though Rob Gronkowski is a supreme talent, he hasn’t appeared in all 16 regular season games since 2011. Although bringing in Keller wouldn’t guarantee big plays and dynamic receiving, his existence would give the Patriots solid depth at worst.

And if they could pick him up for a bargain due to injury issues and age, there’s not much of a downside to this move.