The Curious Case of the New York Jets' Dustin Keller

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Dec. 2, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller (81) celebrates on the field against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Keller. It’s a name that stirs a lot of debate around the fanbase, and with good reason. He is an unrestricted free agent, and the Jets have to make a big decision on this guy. He has been a major part of this team since he was drafted, and you can make a good argument for either side of the coin, to keep him or let him walk.

As a full time player, Dustin Keller improved every year he was healthy. His peak was 2011, when he put up 65 catches for 815 yards and 5 TDs. He was a favorite target of Brett Favre in 2008, prompting Brett to wish he got to play with Dustin earlier in his career. We know how fast he moved up the comfortability ladder with Mark Sanchez. Mark feels about him the way Linus feels about his blue blanket. He is is best friend off the field, and his most trusted receiver on it.

Even though Dustin didn’t play much in 2012, when he did play, he was effective. He was targeted 36 times, and did record 28 receptions, catching over 77% of the balls thrown his way. When healthy, he may not be Antonio Gates or Rob Gronkowski, but he is an effective pass-catching tight end.

However, coming out of the 2012 season, his durability has to come into question. It wouldn’t be such a question if he had to go on injured reserve, but that is not what happened. Instead, he suffered a pulled hamstring in the preseason, and was never really ever to recover from it. He played a bit, but never got to full strength. There were several weeks that he tried to prepare, was “hopeful” to play, but his status went backwards each day.

In short, the argument can be made that Dustin Keller is soft. You need a tough guy for that position, and Keller did a lot to show that he wasn’t that tough guy. A pulled hamstring should not affect an entire season. Many fans feel that the Jets can get away with Jeff Cumberland, and others, filling in the receiving responsibilities.

However, there is an “X-Factor” here, that must come into the equation as part of the decision making process.  This factor is a new influence arriving in 2013, that puts a premium on a pass-catching tight end.  Well, maybe we should call him an “M-Factor”.

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