Hartline, 29, caught 46 passes for 523 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. He suffered a broken collarbone in December in the team's 24-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers, however, ending his season.
Hartline's release doesn't come as a huge surprise. According to OverTheCap.com, releasing Hartline will free up $3 million in cap space. And the Browns prioritized wide receiver in a big way at this year's draft, selecting Corey Coleman (first round), Ricardo Louis (fourth round), Seth DeValve (fourth round), Jordan Payton (fifth round) and Rashard Higgins (fifth round).
The Browns also have Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel on the roster, and there is the possibility that Josh Gordon could return to the team once the NFL reinstates him, though it's clear that the Browns are interested in infusing a youth movement at the position this season.
That may come with some downsides, and losing a veteran presence such as Hartline will be felt in the locker room, as Anthony Lima of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland hinted:
It's a viewpoint that former coach Mike Pettine echoed when Hartline was lost for the season.
"This is a guy that's a leader," he told Cabot. "He's a leader in the locker room, he's a leader in the meeting rooms, he's a leader on the practice field and then on game day, he's a guy that wants the ball. That's the only negative is sometimes he gets, 'I want the ball' which is great. You want guys like that. I can't say enough (about him)."
Hartline likely won't be without a job for long, however. He's a consistent if unspectacular option at wide receiver and can fill the No. 3 or No. 4 role for a team at this point in his career.
Moving on made sense for the rebuilding Browns, but there is a place for the steady Hartline on another NFL team.
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