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The Miami Dolphins will retain the services of their top receiver of 2012. Brian Hartline and the team have reportedly agreed to terms on a five-year contract just days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent.
NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk reported Thursday evening that Hartline's deal is worth $30.775 million, with $12.5 million in guaranteed money. The two sides had been negotiating since at least Tuesday, when reports broke that talks had gained momentum.
"It feels great to know hard work and perseverance is worth something," Hartline told NFL.com Thursday night. "But now, it's about winning games. I think we're on right path. I think we're close."
Teams can begin negotiating with free agents from other teams starting Saturday, with free agency officially starting on Tuesday.
Hartline caught 74 passes for 1,083 yards last season, most on the team. He only had one touchdown, and over four seasons in the NFL, he's only caught six passes for scores. Miami selected Hartline in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Ohio State.
Hartline may only be the first receiver the Dolphins sign this offseason. The team is expected to give a close look to Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace, and may also be interested in Green Bay's Greg Jennings (whom Miami coach Joe Philbin coached as the Packers' offensive coordinator). The Dolphins may opt to select a receiver in the NFL Draft.
Hartline, for one, will be watching the team intently. "I'm excited to see what happens in free agency," he said.
"We want to win. We're set up so we have cap room to make some moves, and that's one way we can win football games. It's important. And the draft will be important, too. It's exciting."