A signing that’s been rumored pretty much since it was possible for signings to happen has finally been announced. The Miami Dolphins have secured Dustin Keller with a one-year deal.
He immediately fills the tight end hole that was vacated by Anthony Fasano when he left for Kansas City, and the signing continues the Dolphins’ disposal of every penny in their pockets. At noon on Day 4 of free agency, their haul includes Keller, Mike Wallace, Phillip Wheeler, and Dannell Ellerbe, in addition to re-signing Matt Moore and Brian Hartline, and the franchising of Randy Starks. Oh yeah, and they’re still in on Jake Long.
Between Wallace, Keller, and Hartline, sophomore quarterback Ryan Tannehill now has an abundance of targets. Relying on Hartline and pretty much only Hartline during his rookie year that featured encouraging if slow development is what held Tannehill back, and limited his growth.
Keller struggled through injuries in 2012, and it eventually became a lost season (only 317 receiving yards and two touchdowns through seven games). That’s what led to what is presumably a significantly decreased price tag of $4.25 mullion ($2.25 million of which is guaranteed), and a bargain for Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland.
Since he was lost amid the fuming toxic mess that was the 2012 Jets, it’s easy to forget that Keller is only a year removed from having 815 receiving yards at a pace of 50.9 yards per game, both career highs. And he’s only 28, making him ripe for an extension and to be secured for many more years by the Dolphins if he shows a return to that ability next season.
It’ll be interesting to see how much the Dolphins’ offense changes with a tight end who’s much more capable of stretching the middle of the field with his speed, as Keller isn’t just a squatter in the red zone. Fasano was targeted a very modest 68 times this past season, which included nine games with fewer than five targets.
With the pairing of Wallace and Hartline drawing attention deep, Keller will be a fine late-round fantasy option for those who don’t want to pay the steep price for Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, or Tony Gonzalez early. In that 2011 season, he averaged 6.8 fantasy points per game.