Tight end Dustin Keller was supposed to be the safety blanket over the middle and seam-stretching tight end quarterback Ryan Tannehill needed in his second year under center.
But he’s gone now. And any false hope that has come with a yet to be read diagnosis is only delaying the inevitable.
Expect an announcement sometime on Sunday morning that Dustin Keller sustained serious ligament damage to his right knee and will miss the entirety of the 2013 NFL season, which will be a huge blow to an offense and a quarterback who were clearly benefiting from his services.
But we can sit here all night and talk about what could have been and how much this hurts Mike Sherman’s offense. The Dolphins must move on and they must move on quickly. Here are some potential replacements:
Charles Clay: Clay is the Dolphins’ most experienced pass catcher who is not a wide receiver. Giving him the starting tight end job would likely force the Dolphins to keep either Jorvorskie Lane or Evan Rodriguez, however, as Clay has spent a great deal of time at fullback this preseason. He’s a target who can separate down the middle of the field, but isn’t the natural receiver Keller was.
Dion Sims: The rookie has played well at practice and has already earned first-team snaps in two tight-end formations. He’s got good size too at six-foot-four, 265 pounds and is a better athlete than most draft experts gave him credit for. While he figures to be a solid blocking tight end for Miami this season, he isn’t a legitimate threat to stretch the seam.
Michael Egnew: The third-round pick in 2012 is now a virtual lock to make the team, but can he become a significant contributor? He has the size and the speed to rack up receptions over the middle, but I’m not sure the coaching staff trusts him yet. Egnew always appears to be a dropped pass, fumble or penalty away from happening. His ceiling may be the highest of all of the team’s remaining tight ends, but he’s made a home on his floor thus far.
Randy McMichael: Once one of the league’s most talented tight ends as a member of the Dolphins, Randy McMichael is 34 years old and three years removed from his last touchdown. It wouldn’t hurt to kick the tires, but Miami wouldn’t be getting the same player who once caught for nearly 800 yards in 2004
Kevin Boss: The 29-year-old veteran has been a productive tight end in the past — most notably as a member of the New York Giants when he produced over 500 yards receiving in 2009 and 2010. But he’s sustained four serious concussions in six seasons and may never be cleared medically to play football again.
David Thomas: He had a 356-yard receiving season back in 2009 with the Saints, but has been used as more of a blocker during his seven-year career.
Travis Beckum: The former Wisconsin Badger hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL in 2011. If the knee is healthy, he could provide the Dolphins with depth at tight end, but certainly nothing more.
Will Heller: Heller hasn’t even managed 1,000 receiving yards in 10 combined years of action.
The Dolphins are going to add a tight end — that’s almost certain. But the open market is bare at the position.
General manager Jeff Ireland will likely turn to a lesser known first or second-year player while he waits for teams to start making cuts in order to claim a tight end off of the waiver wire.
There’s no replacing Dustin Keller in Miami. The Dolphins can only hope they find a respectable band aid.