Former AFC East Rival TE Dustin Keller Now A Dolphin

Posted Mar 15, 2013

Ireland fills another need on offense for young QB Tannehill.

Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland is closing out the first week of free agency with a bang by signing former New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller today.

Earlier in the week, Ireland made a splash on the offensive side of the ball by landing wide receiver Mike Wallace late Tuesday and introducing him to the local media on Wednesday. The speedy wideout was the most sought after free agent at his position and brings a unique skill set to Miami’s offense under Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Now Keller becomes another weapon for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to rely on.

“We are happy that we have been able to reach an agreement with Dustin,” said Ireland, in his sixth year as the team’s GM. “We have been able to see first-hand what kind of impact he brings to an offense during his time with the New York Jets and look forward to his contributions as a member of the Miami Dolphins.”

Keller was with the Jets for the last five seasons (2008-12) and was New York’s first-round pick (30th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Purdue. He has caught 241 passes for 2,876 yards and 17 touchdowns over his career and started 49 of the 72 games he has played in.

Last season, Keller appeared in just eight games to hamstring and ankle injuries but he has faced Miami a total of eight times, catching 35 passes for 395 yards and four touchdowns. In his only meeting with the Dolphins in Week 8 up at MetLife Stadium, he caught seven passes for 67 yards in a 30-9 win for Miami and now he’ll be playing for them.

“Once I became a free agent all of that (the rivalry) was out the window,” Keller said on a conference call with the media. “I just wanted to test the market and see what everything was and coming to the Dolphins and meeting with all of the coaches it just is a good fit. I know it’s going to be great. It’s just a great fit, a nice, good, young team and I know I’m going to fit in well with this team.”

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound athletic tight end fills the void created by the departure of veteran Anthony Fasano and joins a young group of tight ends consisting of Charles Clay, Michael Egnew and Jeron Mastrud. Keller can bring some leadership into that room and he also can be another veteran voice for Tannehill to listen to.

Keller watched a lot of film of Tannehill and remembers following him when he was calling signals in college at Texas A&M for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s head coach at the time. So between what he sees in the youngster and what Ireland has done in free agency to help the offense, Keller is excited about what the Dolphins are capable of doing this season under second-year Head Coach Joe Philbin.

“I like all the things that they did in free agency and you can tell right now that Coach Philbin, he’s putting all the pieces together to win now,” said Keller, who considers Miami to be a playoff contender. “I think that’s huge. We have a real tough division and I think right now this team’s in a position to win and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Prior to the untimely injuries that shortened his 2012 season, Keller had been perfectly healthy and not missed a game to injury. He is intent on proving that he is 100 percent again and can be just as effective as he was during the seasons when he wasn’t hurt.

Even though his visit to the Doctor’s Hospital Training Facility was relatively brief, Keller got a chance to converse with Sherman, Philbin and tight ends coach Dan Campbell. He’s still uncertain about precisely what his role will be in the offense but he’s confident it will be a significant one and one that he’ll be comfortable with.

“I’ll do whatever they need to me do, whether it’s to go out there and catch bunch of balls or block a bunch, whatever it is I’m just here to help the team,” Keller said. “After meeting all of the coaches, especially Coach Campbell, it was an easy decision. I feel like just being with him, a guy that played in the NFL for 11 years, especially in a blocking role, he’s a grinder and I think I can learn a lot of stuff from him. That’s one thing that kind of made my decision real easy.”

Now that he is officially going from one young quarterback to an even younger one in Tannehill, Keller is intrigued by what Miami’s offense will be able to accomplish. He and speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace are the two newest additions, while last year’s leading receiver, Brian Hartline, was re-signed one week ago and the other starter, Davone Bess, remains on the roster.

Keller felt an immediate connection to Philbin and Sherman in terms of their offensive philosophy and is looking forward to developing a rapport with Tannehill, Wallace, Hartline, Bess, Clay, Egnew, Mastrud and the rest of the skill players.

“I’m very impressed with (Tannehill). I like his game a lot,” Keller said. “I think now you put a Mike Wallace on the team, re-signing Brian Hartline, I love Davone Bess in the slot and you’ve got Clay out there working at tight end too and I think there are a lot of pieces that will help him thrive this year. I’m just happy to be one of those pieces.”

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