This time a year ago, the thought of the New England Patriots having a big hole at Tight End come 2014 would have seemed ridiculous. However, with Aaron Hernandez cut from the team and Rob Gronkowski only lasting 6 1/2 games, the Pats could certainly use another guy to catch the ball in that position, especially given how badly they missed Gronk through his arm/back/knee injuries.
So how about a guy coming off a knee injury?
Yes, Dustin Keller could be close to completing a tour of the AFC East if he were to come to the Patriots this offseason. After 5 years with the New York Jets, he joined the Miami Dolphins in 2013 hoping to be a big target in their offense. However, he suffered a gruesome knee injury in pre-season, suffering a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in the process. Oh, and a dislocation.
This injury, combined with the breakout of Charles Clay, will probably see Keller seeking a new destination in 2014, according to ESPN.com. So, why not the Patriots?
He always seemed fairly reliable as a Number 1 TE in New York (well, as reliable as you can be with Jets quarterbacks throwing you the ball), especially in 2011, where he had a stat line of 65/815/5. He would promise to be more of a threat in the passing game too. Last year's backup Michael Hoomanawanui is more of a blocking, H-back type TE, so having a more Hernandez like second option would be a good option.
Also, he could be great value. After coming off that injury, some teams might be put off Keller. Keller isn't going to be a Free Agent who immediately finds a team, he'll need to prove his fitness before anyone takes a shot on him. Luckily, the Patriots have Gronkowski, so Keller doesn't need to be an immediate starter who needs to be a big part of the offense. The Pats can give him time to fully recover, learn the playbook and ease his way into becoming a role player on this team.
Keller would be a nice supplement in the Patriots offense, he'd take more pressure off Gronk, he'd allow you to look for a Tight End further down in the Draft, rather than in the 1st round, where there are bigger needs to fill. But this injury might be too much to overcome. We won't find out if Keller has recovered enough to join an NFL team until around Training Camp time, but if he can come close to where he was a couple of years ago, he could be a great find for the offense.
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