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Hartline at $6 million per year make sense

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Yesterday, word came out that the Miami Dolphins and wide receiver Brian Hartline were close on a deal that would pay an average of between $6 and $6.5 million per season. Many fans immediately began complaining that the Dolphins were overpaying for Hartline. But are they?

Mike Ehrmann

In an NFL offseason that has seen Joe Flacco receive a $20.1 million per season contract, you would think a rumored contract at $6 million per season for a wide receiver would not even cause someone to blink. However, if that player is Miami Dolphins wide receiver, fans seem to immediately panic over the amount.

Simply put, Hartline is worth $6 million per year. Take a look at the other wide receivers who currently have deals from $5.5 million per year to $7.5 million per year.

Player Team Average Salary
Josh Morgan Washington Redskins $5,750,000
Reggie Wayne Indianapolis Colts $5,833,333
Anquan Boldin Baltimore Ravens $6,250,000
Robert Meachem San Diego Chargers $6,475,000
Laurent Robinson Jacksonville Jaguars $6,500,000
Roddy White Atlanta Falcons $7,120,000
Antonio Brown Pittsburgh Steelers $7,173,333
Stevie Johnson Buffalo Bills $7,250,000
Marques Colston New Orleans Saints $7,260,000
Steve Smith Carolina Panthers $7,500,000

Are there some players on that list who are underpaid? Sure. Roddy White probably deserves more than $7.1 million a year. But, this is the second to last year on a six year deal he signed in 2009. When it is his time for a new contract, you can bet he will be getting more than $7.1M. But, a contract that is underpaying White is still more than the rumored amount for Hartline.

Looking down in the range of Hartline's deal, two names jump out - Reggie Wayne and Anquan Boldin. Wayne signed a deal last year with the Colts, for less money, to stay in Indianapolis. His previous deal, in 2006, was a $6.5 million per season contract - which was the third highest wide receiver salary at the time, behind only Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss.

Boldin was traded to the Ravens from the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, when he signed an extension that lasts through this year. So, if Boldin continues to play after this season (he's already said if he's not with the Ravens, he would retire), his per year salary will likely go up some. But, when Boldin went to the Ravens, he was the big name available on the market - but he was also doubted because he was second fiddle to Larry Fitzgerald. He was also seen as injury prone, having not completed an entire 16 game schedule between 2003 and 2010. Boldin was coming off of a season when he missed the Cardinals two playoff games. Add in the draft picks it took to get him, and the price tag makes since for a 2010 contract extension.

Players Games Starts Rec Yards Yards/Rec TDs
Brian Hartline 16 15 74 1083 14.6 1
Josh Morgan 16 15 48 510 10.6 2
Reggie Wayne* 16 15 106 1355 12.8 5
Anquan Boldin 15 15 65 921 14.2 4
Robert Meachem 15 3 14 207 14.8 2
Laurent Robinson 7 4 24 252 10.5 0
Roddy White 16 14 92 1351 14.7 7
Antonio Brown 13 10 66 787 11.9 5
Stevie Johnson 16 16 79 1046 13.2 6
Marques Colston 16 13 83 1154 13.9 10
Steve Smith 16 16 73 1174 16.1 4

*Pro Bowl

Looking at the stats, is Hartline in any way not in that group? He only has the one touchdown, but when you look at the rest of the Miami receiving corps, is it really all that surprising that Hartline was covered, and double covered, anywhere near the red zone, and for most of the second half of the season. Add in Davone Bess' injury during the season, and Hartline was really the only wide receiver who was a threat for Miami.

No one has any idea how the contract will be structured. Hartline could make $6 million a season for five years, with two $10 million dollar seasons at the end of the deal. Given that the Dolphins would likely not keep Hartline over those final two years, that deal would really be a three year, $10 million deal, or just $3.33 million a season.

In the NFL, average salaries really mean nothing. Roddy White's salary cap number is $9.125 million in 2013, despite only having a $7.12M average salary. Meanwhile, Clavin Johnson, the league's highest paid receiver, has a $12.2M salary cap number this season, in second year of an $18.8 million average salary deal.

Don't start worrying about a "$6 million per year" deal for Hartline, even if that's about his value in today's NFL. Let the numbers come out and see how much of a salary cap hit he actually is this year. That's the number that will really mean something.