Dustin Keller leaves Jets for Dolphins
For Dustin Keller, it came down to winning. And that singular goal led him straight to Miami, he said.
The free-agent tight end inked a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins Friday. According to multiple reports, it's worth $4.25 million, including $2.25 million guaranteed.
Jets backup tight end Jeff Cumberland will slide into Keller's starting role.
"They're all about winning and winning now," Keller said of his new team in an afternoon conference call with Miami reporters. "I know they've had some rebuilding years. But this is the time for them to win, and that excited me more than anything."
While the Dolphins have made a splash in free agency -- most notably by pouncing on former Steelers playmaker Mike Wallace -- the Jets have spent much of the offseason clearing salary-cap space. Now their roster is a shell of what it used to be, as vital pieces in their playoff runs of 2009 and 2010 have left through free agency or have been released.
Those cost-cutting maneuvers also resulted in the exodus of free agents Mike DeVito (Chiefs), Shonn Greene (Titans), Yeremiah Bell (Cardinals) and LaRon Landry (Colts) earlier this week. And now Keller has joined them.
This defection will hurt Mark Sanchez the most. Keller had 55 catches for 687 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 and 65 receptions for 815 yards and five TDs in 2011. Heading into 2012, he made it clear he wanted a long-term deal, but the Jets wouldn't give him one. Keller, a first-round pick in 2008, caught a career-low 28 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns last season because of lingering ankle and hamstring injuries.
Keller said in his conference call that he had interest from multiple teams and that his decision ultimately came down to the Jets or the Dolphins.
"We had talked to New York as well, but what it all came down to is just a better fit for me," he said. "I had a great time with the Jets but it was time, it's time to move on for me. I see my future here. And I see a bright one here. I feel like I'm going to be surrounded by a great, great locker room and just great guys and coaches that are going to help me thrive."
Keller didn't get into specifics about his one-year deal, but if he produces on the field this season, he stands to make even more on his next contract.
Dolphins second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill now will have Keller at his disposal, in addition to Wallace and Brandon Gibson. Gibson visited with the Jets for two days this week but chose to sign a three-year deal with Miami shortly after Keller inked his deal.
"We are happy that Brandon is joining the team," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. "Coupled with the earlier addition today of Dustin Keller, we feel that we have added some very good pieces to our passing game."