While the Dolphins front office claim to be on a mission to find weapons for Ryan Tannehill, this week they focused on retaining his most reliable target in Brian Hartline. The wide receiver out of Ohio State University had a career year with Ryan Tannehill throwing to him, netting him 1083 yards and a TD. The question remains for me, was this a smart move by GM Jeff Ireland, or was it another mistake to be added to a long list? Read more, on the other side of the break.
Lets start with the new contract’s details. His contract is worth a strong 30.7 million over 5 years, equating to an average of 6.15 million a year. Details of guaranteed money or signing bonus however, have not been reported. Had a signing bonus been used it would have been paid by Steven Ross up front and applied to the cap hit split over the entirety of the contract (i.e. a $5 million signing bonus would count 1 million to the cap hit in each of the 5 years). No information about the structure of the contract has been released either, so we dont know the actual cap hit on 2013’s cap space. We can only assume that the average of the contract will hit the cap, which will leave the Dolphins with about 30 million in cap space.
Some argue that Hartline’s production went up in 2012 due to Ryan Tannehill, and some argue that Hartline’s increased production came as a result of more targets. Truthfully, both are accurate. Lets start with where Hartline showed a level of consistency with his previous years, yards per reception. Brian Hartline continually averages about 14.5 YPR during his time in the NFL. It is because of this that some fans simply claim his increased yards comes from increased targets. There is truth to this of course, but its not as easy a claim as it seems. Tannehill was comfortable throwing to Hartline and they obviously were on the same page on a number of plays. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Hartline also carried over his lack of endzone receptions. Hartline averages 1.5 touchdowns a year (6 TD, 4 years, with 3 in his rookie year). This is not a new occurrence and Hartline has had at least 3 different starting QB’s throw to him, including one that had an impressive run with 16 TD’s (Moore never threw any touchdowns Hartline’s way however). Hartline seemingly has a sweet spot of 15-30 yards along the sideline. He is a decent 9 route runner, but I cant remove the image of him slowing down on that bomb in the first Patriots game. He has some issues with press coverage (to be expected with his frame) that limit his effectiveness deep in the red-zone.
Hartline did vastly improve one aspect of his game in 2012, drop rate. He had 5 drops on 79 catchable passes (6.3% drop rate, 20th among WR with at least 50 targets). Comparatively, Hartline had 7 drops on 42 catchable passes in 2011 (16.67%), 4 on 47 in 2010 (8.5%), and 3 on 33 in 2009 (9.1%).
Worth & Prediction of Future Production
In my honest opinion, Hartline is worth about 4.5 million a year. Hartline gets you a reliable target that can easily pick up 10-20 yards when you need them. He makes excellent back shoulder adjustments, and is an acrobat down the sideline. He has a good sense of his feet and their relation to the sideline as well. All that technically is not worth 6.1 million a year, but I am glad we paid it. Unfortunately, this is the name of the game in free agency, you overpay. Especially in this offseason where reliable free agent wide receivers are few. I fully expect Hartline’s stats to take a hit from the signing of a big name wide receiver (Wallace?), and an early draft pick as well (thinking 2nd round). Even still, I am OK with the cost. Sure, you could probably get a cheaper option to net the team about 700 yards and 1 TD, but theres something to be said about the comfort level of Tannehill. Then theres always the chance that Hartline works on becoming a better red-zone threat and is a nice role player.
Rumor Mill Official:
The Dolphins have signed backup QB Matt Moore to a 2 year contract worth 8 million. Smart move, Jeffy. You have a promising Qb in Tannehill and probably one the top 3 back ups in the league; and your only paying 6 million for it? Nice.