The report itself was not a surprise—Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald reported recently that the Dolphins were making Hartline a priority, a notion which I agreed with—it's the money that is causing waves.
Fox Sports' Alex Marvez reported that the Dolphins were closing in on a multi-year deal for Hartline that would pay him $6-$6.5 million per year.
Alex Marvez @alexmarvez
WR Brian Hartline is close to signing multiyear contract w/#Dolphins averaging $6M-$6.5M. My @FOXSports.com story: http://t.co/qdKGzTFVzN2013-3-5 15:36:48
Make no mistake, bringing Hartline back is key for the Dolphins. As I wrote a couple weeks back, there are few things more disastrous than frequently changing the surroundings for a young, developing quarterback (just ask Mark Sanchez).
Hartline's chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill was almost instantaneous. Hartline missed most of training camp with a leg injury, but the rapport was there right from the get-go, as Hartline caught one back-shoulder pass after another on his way to nine receptions for 111 yards against the Raiders.
Do those things make him worth what the Dolphins might pay for him, though?
According to news aggregator Rotoworld, Hartline was seeking a deal in line with the one given to wide receiver Laurent Robinson this past offseason:
It's believed Hartline wants roughly $33 million over five seasons, indicating he's pinpointed Laurent Robinson's five-year, $32.5 million contract as a negotiating baseline.
Never mind that Robinson's contract was considered rich even at the time it was signed (or mind it, if you like).
Look at the numbers, and it's pretty clear Hartline should not be making as much as Robinson. Hartline had more receptions and yards, but Robinson caught a higher percentage of passes thrown his way for more yards per reception and had far more touchdowns on far fewer targets.
He should come down from his demands a bit, but he may not have to.
Either way, though, the Dolphins have the money to spend, so a little extra money to retain an important player may not be too much to ask. Even at $6 million per year, he'd still be making right around what Robert Meachem made to join the Chargers with worse numbers as a member of the Saints than Hartline had as a member of the Dolphins.
He'd still be making right in line with what Anquan Boldin makes as well.
Those names are certainly bigger, but their numbers certainly have not been.
However, the Sun-Sentinel's Chris Perkins reports that "the Hartline deal might not be as imminent as it seems" whereas Omar Kelly claims the Dolphins are using Jordy Nelson's four-year, $14 million deal as a point of reference.
That deal would pay him a meager $3.5 million per year.
Obviously, someone will be wrong and someone will be right. A middle ground between those two numbers ($6.5 million per year vs. $3.5 million per year) would put the deal at a very reasonable price, though: $5 million per year.
Hartline is not a game-breaker, but he's not a bad receiver. His biggest issue in 2012 was a lack of touchdowns, but was that Hartline's biggest issue or the Dolphins' biggest issue? Not only did the Dolphins lack a viable red-zone target, they also finished with the third-fewest passing touchdowns as a team in the NFL.
No matter what happens, Dolphins fans, look at it this way: At least he's not getting paid in line with the two other receivers in NFL history with more than 1,000 receiving yards and one or fewer receiving touchdowns in a season.
Those two receivers' names are Michael Irvin and Keyshawn Johnson.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.