While the Broncos reportedly aren’t engaged in extension talks with star pass catchers Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, the team is discussing a new deal with another free-agent-to-be, reports Mike Klis of the Denver Post. According to Klis, the team has opened extension negotiations with cornerback Chris Harris, who is eligible to hit the open market at season’s end.
The two Thomases have typically been the focus of discussions on which players the Broncos should lock up long term, and they received most of your votes when I asked last month which extension candidate should be the team’s top priority. However, Harris’ importance to Denver’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked.
According to Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required), Harris has been the league’s third-best cornerback this season, and his +11.7 grade in pass coverage is tops in the NFL. PFF’s data indicates that the 25-year-old has been targeted 45 times this season for just 22 receptions, 185 yards, no touchdowns, a pair of INTs, and a 41.4 passer rating. Those stats don’t appear to be an aberration either — a year ago, Harris ranked eighth among corners, per PFF, which placed him ahead of notable extension recipients like Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden.
Since Harris was coming off a torn ACL, the Broncos managed to bring him back on a one-year restricted free agent tender worth just $2.187MM, but the former undrafted free agent unlikely to be that affordable in 2015 and beyond. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Broncos are in pursuing a new deal with Harris, since the team has cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby locked up for the next several seasons.
Although we know Wes Welker likely won’t be a priority for the Broncos, the team presumably wants to find a way to bring back both Thomases and Harris, all of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency this winter. Harris will be in position to command a substantial raise though, and if the two sides can’t work something out, he figures to draw plenty of interest on the open market in March.