Brian Costello: Keller wants to stay with Jets
Keller wants to stay with Jets
By BRIAN COSTELLO
Last Updated: 7:53 AM, March 3, 2013
The Jets are the only NFL team tight end Dustin Keller has ever known.
That may change soon.
Keller is scheduled to become a free agent March 12, and all indications are the Jets will let him hit the open market. The 28-year-old does not know what to expect from the free agency process.
“I kind of view free agency like the draft, at this point I don’t know where anyone stands, including the Jets, but everything will take care of itself,” Keller told The Post in an email. “I’m not stressing myself out about where I’m going to be, I’m just going to continue to work my butt off this offseason so I’m ready no matter where I’m going to be.”
Still, Keller made it clear he would love to be back with the Jets. He remains close with quarterback Mark Sanchez as well as others on the team that selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft out of Purdue.
“Yeah, I’d like to return,” he said. “I have a lot of great friends on the team, and I’ve always thought of myself as a key piece of the offense there, but if I’m not there that’s fine, too. There are no hard feelings. I understand it’s a business for the Jets, but at this point it’s a business decision for me as well.”
Keller hoped to get a long-term extension before last season, similar to what he saw teammates Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Sanchez receive. But former general manager Mike Tannenbaum declined.
“Did I want to sign a new deal before last season? Yes,” Keller said. “Am I angry about it? No. Like I said, I understand the business side. I signed a five-year deal and I played through that whole contract, even though recent first-round picks have re-signed with a year left. So I think I deserve the right to see what else is out there.”
Keller’s agent met with the Jets brass at the NFL scouting combine last month, but Keller remains unsure just how much the team wants him back. He has not spoken to new GM John Idzik, but has heard from new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“I have talked to Coach Mornhinweg and he made clear to me that he would like to have me back, but the guys upstairs may have different thoughts than the coaches,” Keller said.
The 2012 season was a rough one for Keller. He played in just eight games while dealing with hamstring and ankle injuries, and was limited to 28 catches and two touchdowns. That could hurt his value as a free agent if teams question whether he can stay healthy. But Keller never missed a game before last season and says he is 100 percent now.
Keller should generate high demand as one of the top tight ends available in free agency.
“The thing I wants teams to realize is that I played my first four years in the NFL without missing a single practice, let alone a game,” Keller said.
“I’m not some injury-prone player that teams have to worry about. Both of my injuries were non-contact injuries, so they were just fluke incidents. I don’t think people realize that there is a 100-percent injury rate for players in the NFL, and my injuries were minor.”