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Report: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross considers No. 1 WR a 'top offseason priority'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Owner Stephen Ross (second from the left) wants to give QB Ryan Tannehill a big-play wide receiver. (US Presswire)

There was a reason the Dolphins signed Chad Johnson this summer: they needed to drum up interest in advance of their training-camp appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks. That and they needed warm bodies at wide receiver.

Well, Johnson was released for mostly nonfootball-related reasons (he wasn't doing much on the field, either) and a below-average pass-catching corps somehow got worse. But then Brian Hartline got healthy after an offseason where his appendix needed to be removed and a bout with gangrene.

All Hartline has done in five regular-season games: 29 catches for a league-leading 514 yards. Nearly half those totals came against the Cardinals in Week 4 (12 catches, 253 yards). But despite the early success, there's no guarantee he'll be in Miami when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Even if Harltine returns (and the team would like to keep him), Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told team employees at a recent town hall meeting that landing a legitimate No. 1 receiver is a "top offseason priority," according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Mike Barardino.

Ross apparently does not think Hartline or Davone Bess is suited for the No. 1 receiver role, a sentiment that most people would agree with. Miami had such a player in Brandon Marshall before they shipped him to Chicago last March for two third-round picks.

Marshall dominated during his two years in Miami, hauling in 167 passes for 2,228 yards and 16 touchdowns. The bigger issue was his off-field antics. (Worth noting: Marshall has 35 catches for 496 yards and three touchdowns in five games with the Bears.)

Either way, Ross will do "whatever it takes" to find Tannehill a proper downfield threat. Berardino notes Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Wes Welker and Dwayne Bowe will be free agents at the end of the season.

Welker, who will be 32 before the 2013 season, isn't a No. 1 receiver. Miami would be better served re-signing Hartline. If Jennings can stay healthy, he has to be in the conversation. Wallace is one of the NFL's fastest players. Bowe isn't a deep threat, but he's nearly unstoppable when properly motivated. Whoever ends up in the Dolphins' crosshairs, they won't come cheap.

Good news: the team could have $40 million-50 million in salary-cap space to play with.

Bad news (at least for some Dolphins fans): general manager Jeff Ireland continues to have Ross' full support.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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