There's been a lot of talk recently that the Miami Dolphins were preparing to sever ties with a highly priced wide receiver who disappointed in 2014. Sure enough, that came to pass on Friday.
It just wasn't the wide receiver who most folks thought it would be.
However, while it may be the end of the line in South Florida for Brian Hartline, the 28-year-old won't be out of work for long.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, Hartline was part of the house cleaning that the Dolphins did at wideout Friday:
There's been a lot written over the past two weeks about the possibility that wide receiver Mike Wallace could be shown the door in a cost-cutting move. Still, it's hardly an earth-shattering development that Hartline was let go.
Hartline's 39 catches in 2014 was the third-lowest total of his six-year NFL career. His 474 yards was a personal nadir. Hartline found the end zone only twice in 2014, and he has only 12 career scores in six seasons.
|Brian Hartline Career Stats|
That's precious little production for a wide receiver who carried a $7.35 million cap number in 2015, especially given that Hartline ranked outside the top 100 wide receivers in the NFL last year, according to the rankings at Pro Football Focus.
Hartline's role in the offense had diminished considerably with the emergence of rookie Jarvis Landry last year, and over $7 million is way too big a cap hit for a role player. With only about $12 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, even after releasing Hartline, it was an easy call for the Dolphins to make.
With that said though, just because the Dolphins decided they have no use for Hartline (at least at that price), that doesn't mean other NFL teams won't.
For starters, while Hartline's numbers were down in 2014, the two years prior he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. In each of those seasons, Hartline also topped 70 receptions and 13 yards per catch.
They aren't the sorts of numbers that inspire one to make any weird grunting noises, but they're hardly chopped liver. In fact, over the past two seasons, Hartline has had the exact same yards-per-catch average (12.8 yards) as Wallace.
Surprising, given that Wallace is often touted as one the league's biggest deep threats while Hartline—isn't.
There's also the matter of Hartline's sky-high football IQ, a trait that impressed Omar Kelly of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
In all honesty, there are a lot of things Brian Hartline isn't. He isn't a game-changer. Hartline isn't going to "take the top off" a defense. Or command double-teams.
However, Hartline has shown the ability to be a productive player in the NFL. He's a smart receiver who runs good routes. He possesses good hands, with only 10 dropped passes over the last two seasons combined.
And for a player who is supposedly slow, his career average of 12.2 yards a catch isn't terrible.
Add in that at 28, Hartline remains in the prime of his career, and while his next contract probably won't match the five-year, $31 million deal he got from the Dolphins in 2013, there are going to be teams interested.
Especially when you consider that the three teams with the most cap space in the National Football League (the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns) all have a significant need at the wide receiver position.
So, while Friday wasn't the best day in Hartline's NFL career, it isn't the end of the world, either.
Because steady vets who can catch still very much have a place in the NFL.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.