Brian Hartline becomes a free agent after this season and does so, for the first time, as a 1,000-yard receiver.
That could mean big bucks — and we’re not even talking about his bonus for reaching the plateau — for the 26-year-old who is making about $1.4 million this season.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a nice Christmas present,” joked quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Hartline came into Sunday’s game needing 75 yards to hit 1,000 for the first time in his four-year career.
At halftime, it looked like Hartline would need to wait another week. Not only did Hartline go into the half without a catch, Tannehill seemingly didn’t even look his way.
“I was just trying to stay on the grind,” said Hartline, an Ohio State product who grew up just a few miles down I-77 from LeBron James in North Canton, Ohio. “We were doing a good job, were able to score a few points. We could have done better, but I stayed the course. I didn’t want to get too up or too down. I was even keel.”
The third quarter was when Hartline was at his best. While he went into halftime without a catch, Hartline went into the fourth quarter as Miami’s leading receiver after catching five passes for exactly the 75 yards he needed.
“I don’t know what his stats were, but it wasn’t like I forgot about him,” Tannehill said. “He keeps playing and playing. He did a good job of being able to get open in the second half. I was able to get him the ball. He started the second half with a big play.”
Hartline ended with six receptions for 77 yards — putting him at 1,002 yards for the season. Hartline’s career best came two seasons ago when he caught 43 passes for 615 yards.
With two games left, Hartline’s 1,002 yards ranks 17th on the Dolphins’ all-time list, just behind Mark Duper’s 1,003 yards with a rookie quarterback named Dan Marino in 1983.
“This was important to me. It’s always been a goal I wanted to reach,” said Hartline, who has a career-high 68 catches this season. “There are a lot of receivers who don’t get that opportunity.”
Hartline’s career season comes not only at a good time for him financially, but it also comes after a very painful offseason.
Hartline missed all of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury. This came after Hartline needed an emergency appendectomy in which he told NFL.com that he lost 25 pounds in the process.
“You’re talking about an offseason where I missed all the OTAs, all of camp,” Hartline said. “That’s not really forgotten. So I’m really blessed. But I definitely put in the work. They always say, good things come to people who work hard. I’ve worked as much as I could.”
Hartline, who spent 12 days in the hospital after his surgery, got off to a slow start with Tannehill behind center. By Week 4, however, Hartline was the NFL’s leading receiver fueled in great part by his franchise-record 253 receiving yards in a loss at Arizona.
On Sunday, Hartline — who owns the Dolphins record for receiving yards in a game — became the eighth player to go over 1,000 yards in franchise history.