1) The WR’s listed below received a contract of $6-mil+ last season despite NEVER having a 1,000 yard season. If the Dolphins don’t offer Hartline a contract of $6-$8-mil per year, someone else will.
Robert Meachem, Chargers – 4-years, $25-million ($7.5-mil guaranteed)
Pierre Garcon, Redskins – 5-years, $42-million ($20.5-mil guaranteed)
Josh Morgan, Redskins – 2-years, $12-million ($7.5-mil guaranteed)
Laurent Robinson, Jaguars – 5-years, $32-million (14-mil guaranteed)
First, the Meachem and Morgan contracts really don't figure into this discussion, because the guaranteed money is low enough that they can easily be cut any time after their first season.
Second, the assumption I get from your post is that those players are all overpaid. If you acknowledge that, than why would you try to justify the exact same thing by wanting the Phins to overpay Hartline?
Third, forget Morgan, because he sucks. But the other three receivers each had a lot of TDs in the season before getting their money: Meachem and Garcon each had 6, and Robinson had 11. In contrast, Hartline has 6 TDs in his entire career. Playmakers get paid - non-playmakers don't.
2) The following argument is invalid: Brian Hartline’s 2012 season was a fluke because he was targeted so many times.
Hartline ranked 16th in the NFL in receiving yards with 1083, while only being targeted 128 times. Of the top 16 WR’s, only Michael Crabtree was targeted more times (127). If Hartline were targeted 150-170 times instead of 128? It’d be a different story. Lets not forget that Hartline was missed on at least 3 easy TD’s of 40+ yards, too.
Hartline's season wasn't a fluke...1000 yards is the bare minimum I'd expect from a team's #1 receiver.
But...while Hartline was the #16 receiver in yards, the 15 receivers in front of him ALL scored at least
4 TDs...and 7 of the 15 each reached double-digit TDs. Hartline had 1. TDs aren't the be all end all of receivers (see Megatron's nearly-impossible-to-believe 5 this season), but if you're looking to get the big bucks you need to score more than 1 a year.
losing Hartline requires replacing Hartline. And if we’re going to do it with Jennings or Bowe? It’ll be very pricy, while still needing to add a #2 WR to play opposite of Jennings/Bowe while STILL needing a long-term #1 WR because Jennings and Bowe will be 29 and 30 next season.
The goal is to get better, not continue to tread water. My plan is to sign one of the big 3, and use one of the first 3 picks on the position, and use another pick later in the draft as well. Then, we have a true #1 and we add a rookie with the skills to be a legit #2. We increase the talent level at the position and make it a position of strength. Replacing Hartline is easy...any number of receivers off the street can gain 1000 yards and score 1 TD if they are the go-to guy, at a fraction of the cost of Hartline's demands. But again, signing one of the big 3 makes it a moot point...because by acquiring one of those guys, we have upgraded the #1 spot.
The Dolphins success over the next 5 years will be determined by their ability to put Tannehill in every position to succeed – Hartline is a big part of that puzzle.
How is Hartline a big part of the puzzle if everyone in the world agrees that the receiving corps sucked last season, and we struggled to get first downs and TDs with Hartline as the top dog? The missing puzzle pieces are playmakers at WR and TE, not mediocre receivers.