EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - AUGUST 27: Dustin Keller #81 of the New York Jets scores a touchdown as Chris Wilson #95 of the Washington Redskins misses the tackle in the fourth quarter during their preseason game on August 27 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The news that the Jets are working on an extension with tight end Dustin Keller in some ways makes sense. While it would be difficult to pin Mark Sanchez's relative lack of progress to the team constantly reshuffling its receiving corps, it probably has not helped. Keller is the one target Sanchez has had all three years in the league. His athletic ability also creates matchup problems for defenses. Locking Dustin up might raise some questions about exactly what direction the team is heading, though.
The Jets seem to indicate they want to base their offense around the run game. Sparano loves to run the ball. In two of his four years in Miami, the Dolphins were top six in the league in rushing attempts. They were never higher than thirteenth in passing attempts. On average, his Miami teams ran it more than 78% of the league. We know Rex Ryan loves to run it. Whenever the Jets have an offensive slump, Rex's reflex is to go ground and pound. The team just made a big trade to get a quarterback to run the Wildcat package.
Where does Keller fit into this? He put up the best numbers of his career in 2011, but the Jets were a pass first team most of the year. Dustin's value comes as a receiver. He adds little as a blocker. For a team that is going to run it a ton, he is far from an ideal fit. His value becomes diminished. With the offense the Jets seem poised to run, he might never come close to attaining the numbers he had in 2011.
Successful teams in the NFL use their resources to find players who fit their system. A guy might be a good player, but if he does not fit the system, he is not a good investment. That might be the case here. If the Jets want to be a dominant running team, Keller is not going to block consistently enough for them to get there. He has use as a receiver. In an ideal world, the Jets would move him around to create mismatches. How frequently is that going to happen, though? Will it come close to the money he will seek coming off a career year.
The team's exploration of an extension for Keller only embodies the odd and mixed messages this team has been sending all offseason. They hired Sparano to beef up the run game. That meant they weren't going to rely on their quarterback. Then they give their quarterback a big extension and make him one of the highest paid players in the league. Then they trade for a running quarterback because they want to be a running team. Now they are looking to extend a pass catching tight end who does not block well. What exactly is the philosophy here? Is there even one at all?