ESPN NFL insider Field Yates tweeted out the news after the Houston Texans made the defensive lineman available once again.
Yates informed: “Former Packers and Texans DL Kingsley Keke cleared waivers today. Earlier this offseason, the Jets, 49ers and Cowboys tried to claim him off of waivers. Will be interesting to see if any of them revisit their interest at a lower price point (he was due $2.54M).”
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Weighing Talent vs. Culture
Keke has been cut twice in an unexpected fashion and it isn’t due to his talent level. The Packers waived the defensive lineman during a playoff race after he started eight out of 12 games in 2021 and the Texans followed that up by releasing the Texas A&M product months after claiming him off waivers.
There must be more to this story, and there was according to Pro Football Network reporter Aaron Wilson. Keke “was released this week following a disagreement with [the Packers] coaching staff about [his] practice role, per sources, coming off [a] concussion, COVID in recent weeks,” explained Wilson on Twitter.
Green Bay chose to deactivate Keke for their final three games of the season, two of which were labeled as healthy scratches. To parlay that abrupt exit with a two-and-a-half-month tenure on one of the worst rosters in football — only to get cut before OTAs — is no doubt a bad look.
It remains to be seen if the Jets, San Francisco 49ers, or Dallas Cowboys remain interested in the curious character case now that he’s available in free agency.
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Do the Jets Still Need Keke?
The 6-foot-3 lineman played 3-4 defensive end for the Packers but he’d likely fit best as a D-tackle in a 4-3 scheme. A former four-star recruit out of college, Keke was viewed by scouts as a tweener.
NFL draft expert Lance Zierlein described him as a “potentially polarizing prospect.” He explained: “With his athletic ability and functional strength, a role as base in a 4-3 scheme with the ability to reduce inside is most likely. One-gapping 3-4 defenses could target him as well, but he’ll need to add aggressiveness at the point of attack for that role.”
Keke has also been scouted as a “solid but not spectacular player against the run,” offering 6.5 sacks and four tackles for a loss over 41 appearances with the Packers. Pro Football Focus credited him with much stronger pass rush marks than run defense ones, with 24 quarterback pressures last season.
The versatility probably attracted the Jets in the first place, but they have since signed a comparable player in Solomon Thomas and have another already on the roster in John Franklin-Myers.
Keke certainly fits the Robert Saleh mold of an athletic interior pass rusher but the Jets roster no longer has the space to support a move like this. If he was a better run defender, the defensive lineman would at least help fill a void, but his profile is far too similar to the DTs that the Jets have under contract.
For that reason — plus the off-the-field question marks — you might see Gang Green pass on Keke the second time around.