The Miami Dolphins are expected to search for a shiny new target for Ryan Tannehill this offseason, but first they have made it a priority to lock up their top wide receiver from last season.
The deal is for five years and $30.775 million, with Hartline getting $12.5 million in guaranteed money, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Hartline, who was a fourth-round pick by the Dolphins in 2009, was due to hit unrestricted free agency had a deal not gotten done. With plenty of changes most likely coming to Miami's offensive structure this offseason, working out a new contract prior to him hitting the open market became a priority.
Mostly a secondary target during his first three professional seasons, Hartline enjoyed a career-best season in 2012. The former Ohio State product finished with a career- and team-high 74 receptions for 1,083 yards and one touchdown. Hartline also rated out just fine metrically, finishing as the league's 33rd-best receiver in Football Outsiders' DYAR metric.
More importantly—at least from the Dolphins’ perspective—was the burgeoning relationship Hartline formed with Tannehill. The rookie signal-caller leaned heavily on Hartline early as he got acclimated to the pro game and threw to his favorite receiver 24 more times than any other target.
With the Dolphins hoping Tannehill takes a leap in his second season, keeping Hartline was critical—even as rumors float about the team acquiring a true No. 1 receiver. NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington reported on Tuesday that Miami had made current Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Mike Wallace its top priority.
While that seemingly would call Hartline’s deal into question, he’s always been better suited for a secondary receiver role. And considering there are absolutely no guarantees in NFL free agency, the Dolphins had to lock Hartline up or risk coming away empty-handed.
It’s a bit of an overpay with his whole body of work in mind, but Hartline stepped up last season when no one else could, and he should continue building upon his relationship with Tannehill in 2013 and beyond.