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OP ED: Dustin Keller Is Still Pretty Darn Good

Perhaps one of the most controversial and divisive issues this offseason is how to address the Tight End position and whether or not the Jets would be better served by parting ways with starter Dustin Keller and finding a more complete TE. Rumors have been floated and several people, both industry insiders and amateur bloggers, have brought up Keller's name as potential trade bait for clearing cap space.

First, let's examine production. 2011: 65 receptions for 815 yards 5 TD's 41 long 12.5 avg and 1 fumble. Career: 213 receptions for 2,559 yards 15 TD's 54 long 12.0 avg and 2 fumbles.

Dustin Keller is still the favorite receiver of Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who we now know will be with the Jets for at least the immediate foreseeable future. Only five Tight Ends in the entire NFL pulled down more receiving yards than DK (815) last season. 8 Tight Ends caught more passes in 2011. About half a dozen Tight Ends who are also starters had higher receiving averages, only a couple of whom had anywhere near Keller's receptions last year. 11 Tight Ends had more TD passes than Keller in 2011, all but 2 of them only had 1 or 2 more TD receptions than Keller. Two Tight Ends had substantially more 20+ yard receptions.

Dustin Keller only had 1 40+ yard reception in 2011, but the leader two slots ahead of him had 3. Keller tied at 10th with Fred Davis among Tight Ends for first downs. With the exception of Gronkowski, all of the Tight Ends who performed at or above the level of DK had more fumbles to his 1 turnover. Production wise; only Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Aaron Hernandez, and Tony Gonzalez consistently outperformed Keller. Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow were spotty. Fred Davis would have outshone Keller if he hadn't been suspended. Only Rob Gronkowski outdid DK in every single aspect.

DK is a top ten TE in every regard, and if you average his performance across the board, he's top 5 material. BUT, there's a very good argument that people have against him: Dustin Keller cannot block well at all. Sad but true. But if you examine several of these top names, very few of them are effective blockers. They're just roughneck versions of receivers. Especially the ones that benefit from powerful arms of QB's like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees.

Is DK's salary so cumbersome that the Jets should trade Sanchez's favorite target and downgrade our receiving in order to get a good blocker that they might even already have in the form of Jeff Cumberland (I know, wishful thinking)? Does DK's single greatest weakness undo the top tier performance he gave last year? Personally speaking, I cannot justify downgrading for cash or a blocker. This is a receiver starved team, and whether or not the Jets have a viable #1 (or #2) receiver is a matter of debate right now. People complained that the team gave Sanchez less and asked more of him last year. If you expect different results from trading or cutting ties with Keller, you're silly.

The team won't even get near what DK is worth in this market. Then Sanchez will be out his favorite target, and that still doesn't even guarantee the Jets will find an effective blocker. The Jets still have cap space, and even if they didn't could clear it quickly by making moves like cutting Eric Smith.

For all of these reasons and more I am adamantly opposed to parting with Dustin Keller. Where do you stand on this issue?