Matt Moore, Brian Hartline further thin free-agent ranks by sticking with Miami
Here is pretty much all you need to know about this year's free-agent quarterback class: The clear top player in it completed 11 passes last year.
And that player, Matt Moore, did not even make it to the start of free agency on March 12. Instead, he re-signed with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, as first reported by the NFL Network's Jeff Darlington. Moore, 13-12 in his career as a starter, opted to stick around as Ryan Tannehill's backup rather than test the market, leaving a decrepit group of signal-callers in his place.
Take your pick between Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton, David Garrard, Chase Daniel and a host of other underachieving or unproven options remaining. Oh, and let's not forget about Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell, both of whom are looking to make comebacks this offseason.
Moore's re-signing, then, constitutes a bit of a coup for the Dolphins. In Moore, they keep one of the league's best backup quarterbacks -- a reliable safety net, in case Tannehill struggles in Year 2 or falls to injury.
Given that crop of pending free-agent QBs mentioned above, Moore likely could have found a spot to compete for a starting job. But if he is satisfied in Miami, it's hard to fault him for staying, especially after Tannehill's up-and-down rookie year may have left the door open for Moore to push the youngster a bit in 2013.
The news of Moore's return came just a few hours after the Dolphins brought wide receiver Brian Hartline back into the fold. Hartline and the Dolphins agreed late Thursday night to a five-year deal worth close to $31 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed.
Hartline was the Dolphins' leading receiver last season, hauling in 74 catches, so keeping him was viewed as essential -- already, Miami is thought to be slightly desperate to find a No. 1 target for Tannehill, so losing his go-to guy from 2012 would have set the Dolphins back even further.
The wide receiver free-agent class is far deeper than the one at QB, but Hartline's decision, coupled with Dwayne Bowe's new contract in Kansas City, thins out the herd a bit. Hartline would have been one of the best second-tier free agents available, just behind names like Mike Wallace, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings.
He is coming off a career-best year (74 catches, 1,083 yards receiving). Hartline, however, scored just one touchdown last season -- and has caught only three TD passes since thrice finding the end zone during his rookie year. He also chalked up 253 of his nearly 1,100 yards in one game, a 253-yard outing against Arizona.
So, there's some reason for Miami to be concerned about the type of return it will get on its investment, but keeping Hartline and hoping for the best still topped the alternative.
Now, the Dolphins can focus on upgrading their offense (which stands to lose No. 1 running back Reggie Bush), thereby ensuring that Hartline has a little more help out wide and Tannehill a few more choices in the passing game. If all goes according to plan, Hartline no longer will have to be forced into the top receiving role.
The Dolphins wanted to keep Moore around, to provide a little insurance on their Tannehill investment. They needed to retain Hartline so that they guarded against an offensive backslide. That they were able to do both stands as a victory for Miami ... and a setback for those teams hoping to dive into the QB and receiver free-agent pools.