|Free agent snapshot: Wide receiver Brian Hartline||02.16.13 at 12:39 am ET|
We’ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the next week, we’ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Tuesday, it was Mike DeVito. Wednesday, we featured Danny Amendola. Thursday, it was Brent Grimes. And we close it out with Brian Hartline:
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on November 22)
Weight: 199 pounds
The skinny: On a team that didn’t have many dependable options in the passing game, Hartline really managed to distinguish himself as a dependable presence for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, finishing the 2012 season with 74 catches for 1,083 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown. That came on the heels of him missing all of training camp and preseason with a calf injury — and that was after Hartline needed an emergency appendectomy in which he told NFL.com that he lost 25 pounds in the process. Hartline, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Ohio State, heads into free agency with a leg up — while he won’t command elite money, he’s in line for a handsome payday.
By the numbers: Hartline was the only pass catcher in the league who finished with more than 1,000 receiving yards (1,083), but only one touchdown. The only other wide pass catcher who was close was Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who had 1,039 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Why it would work: As we noted when it came to our profile of Danny Amendola, the Patriots’ wide receiver corps is in a state of flux right now with only three receivers under contract for the 2013 season (Brandon Lloyd, Kamar Aiken and Matt Slater), and Hartline could be a part of a new generation of pass catchers in New England. If he did sign with the Patriots, a lot would depend on how the rest of the offseason played out, but he would likely project as a No. 2 receiver in the New England offense.
Why it might not work: Hartline is apparently looking for an annual salary in the $5 million to $6 million range, which might price the Patriots out of the market. (One report said he was looking for Laurent Robinson money: something comparable to the five-year, $32.5 million deal Robinson signed with the Jags last offseason.) That, combined with the fact that the Dolphins have a colossal amount of dough — Miami is approximately $42 million under the cap, one of the best situations in the league — means the Dolphins have the money to burn when it come to this offseason.
Quote: “You [bleeping] me?” — Hartline on finding out from a reporter than he finished a September game against the Cardinals with 253 receiving yards
Our take: When it comes to following in Wes Welker’s footsteps, there’s a obviously compelling argument as Danny Amendola being Welker, Version 2.0. But while Hartline isn’t a slot guy, he also has one big Welkerish quality: the fact that he’s a relatively underappreciated pass-catcher who managed to put up big numbers as the No. 1 option in the passing game for a Miami team that missed out on the postseason. Of course, Welker was able to get to the next level when he left Miami for New England prior to the start of the 2007 season. If the Patriots feel like Hartline is a similar diamond-in-the-rough type of receiver who is ready to bust out on a bigger stage, they should make a play for him. (One thing to remember — Hartline is repped by Drew Rosenhaus, and while the popular misconception is that Rosenhaus is a hard-liner who doesn’t get along with anyone around the league, he actually has a good relationship with the Patriots. New England has had several happy Rosenhaus clients on the roster over the years, including tight end Rob Gronkowski and offensive lineman Donald Thomas.)
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