Chris Harris (CB)

Broncos Place CB Chris Harris On IR

Chris Harris won’t return for the Broncos this season. The Broncos will place Harris on injured reserve and sign fellow cornerback Craig Mager to replace him, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post (on Twitter). 

Harris, 29, suffered a fractured fibula on Dec. 2, but the team wanted to keep its options open in case he would be needed for the playoffs. At 6-8, the Broncos have been mathematically eliminated from contention, so there’s little reason to put Harris in harm’s way.

The Broncos have every reason to believe that Harris will be ready to go for offseason activities in the spring. He’s somewhat close to full health already and he managed to bounce back from a torn ACL in record time earlier in his career. The cornerback tore his ACL against the Chargers in a 2013 divisional playoff game, but managed to play in the 2014 season opener.

The Broncos wrap up their season with games against the Raiders and Chargers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Harris, Ray, Joseph

Here’s the latest out of Denver:

  • It’s “very possible” that cornerback Chris Harris will be placed on injured reserve this week, coach Vance Joseph told reporters (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News). Harris, 29, suffered a fractured fibula on Dec. 2, but the team wanted to keep its options open in case he would be needed for the playoffs. At 6-8, the Broncos have been mathematically eliminated from contention, so there’s little reason to put Harris in harm’s way.
  • Linebacker Shane Ray was a healthy scratch for the first in his career on Saturday and he didn’t hide his frustration when speaking with local beat writers on Monday. “Little disrespectful, but that’s all good, I don’t think I’ve been (a healthy) inactive in my whole career,” Ray said. “Whatever reason they felt I need to be inactive, that’s on them.” When asked if he’ll appear in the Broncos’ final two games of the season, Ray replied, “Y’all got to ask Vance Joseph that.” The Broncos declined Ray’s fifth-year option back in May and it seems unlikely that the 2015 first-round pick will return to Denver next year. Multiple wrist surgeries cost Ray eight games in 2017 and the Broncos seem prepared to move on.
  • Joseph is on the hot seat, but Mike Shanahan is not expected to garner consideration if the Broncos conduct a search for a new head coach.

AFC Notes: Jets, Browns, Harris, Ravens

Mike McCarthy may well have options going into this coming hiring period, but the Jets might not be a great fit. The status of GM Mike Maccagnan will likely be a deterrent for a coach with other options — in the likely event Todd Bowles is fired soon — multiple NFL executives told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv. The New York GM has just one more season remaining on his deal and is not expected to follow Bowles out the door. A lame-duck decision-maker could spook McCarthy. With former Packers execs John Dorsey, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf in Cleveland, many people around the league believe McCarthy will end up with the Browns, Vacchiano notes. The Browns also have a young quarterback and are projected to possess more than $86MM in cap space. While that’s not on the Jets’ level ($106MM-plus), Vacchiano adds McCarthy is known as being a bit sensitive to criticism. That might be an issue in jumping from the league’s smallest market to its biggest.

Here’s more from the Jets and the latest from the AFC:

  • Josh McCown received another start for the Jets on Sunday, doing so despite Sam Darnold being at or close to 100 percent. The rookie quarterback lobbied to play against the Titans during warmups, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, but Bowles stuck with McCown. Bowles would not commit to Darnold starting against the Bills in Week 14, but Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports Darnold showed he was healthy in practice and will likely return Sunday.
  • On the subject of possible quarterback switches, the Ravens may be able to put off their decision for another week. Joe Flacco was not moving too well this week, walking with a noticeable limp, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. While the Ravens could be forced into a choice of benching Lamar Jackson (3-0 as a starter) and returning to Flacco for a pivotal game in Kansas City, this call might be tabled. The possibility of Flacco returning as the starter at some point this month is not out of the question, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, but Jackson may see more work off the bench than he previously did when Flacco was healthy. The difficult prospect of preparing for the quarterbacks’ disparate skill sets intrigues John Harbaugh, per Rapoport, so the Ravens may keep it quiet if they do intend to pivot back to Flacco.
  • Although the Broncos improved to 6-6 Sunday, it came at a cost. Denver lost one of its top players in Chris Harris to a fractured fibula. However, the All-Pro cornerback is not going to be placed on IR and has a goal of returning before a potential playoff game. The eighth-year defender wants to return by Week 17, when the Broncos play the Chargers in what could be a key game — if Denver wins out and receives help — for Vance Joseph‘s team. “I always heal fast,” Harris told Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com.“I’ve got the right people around me to help me get back fast and I’ll work night and day to get back. My goal is three weeks, but they said four. My goal is three weeks because I want to play against [the Chargers].” Harris’ other notable injury (a torn ACL) came against the Chargers in a 2013 divisional playoff game, but the corner returned by Week 1 in 2014.
  • By intercepting three passes, Harris already cashed in $200K of the incentive package he agreed to in the offseason. But another key financial bump is tied to playing time. Despite standing to miss perhaps the rest of the regular season, Harris can still earn an additional $300K if his 736 snaps end up being 65 percent of Denver’s season total, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes (subscription required), adding that scenario is in play.

CB Jamar Taylor To Visit Broncos

Jamar Taylor‘s time with the Cardinals did not last an entire season, but another team’s situation at cornerback may allow for the veteran defender to return to action soon.

The Broncos will host Taylor on a visit soon, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (via Twitter) the former Dolphins, Browns and Cardinals corner is en route to Denver now. A signing could be imminent, Rapoport notes. The Broncos will sign Taylor if he passes their physical, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

Vance Joseph said earlier on Monday (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold) the Broncos were not planning to sign a cornerback, but their corner room may indeed become crowded. Chris Harris‘ fractured fibula, interestingly, will now prompt the the Broncos to place him on IR. The hope is that the All-Pro slot stopper can return this season, Joseph said, calling him week-to-week.

Harris is not expected to need surgery, with Joseph calling the injury the eighth-year veteran sustained Sunday a “small break.” Harris’ return goal appears to be a potential playoff game. That’s not out of the question for the Broncos, but Sunday marked their first extensive action without Harris since he tore an ACL in the 2013 playoffs. While Harris grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 corner, the rest of Denver’s corners have struggled this season, leading to the team exploring an emergency Taylor add.

A 2013 third-round pick, Taylor has been traded twice — from Miami to Cleveland in 2016 and from Cleveland to Arizona earlier this year — and has played well in spurts. After a failed bid to commandeer a Dolphins starting job, Taylor did start 29 games for the Browns from 2016-17. That work led to a Cleveland extension. However, Taylor became one of the several Cardinals who could not lock down the starting job opposite Patrick Peterson, and Arizona cut him last month.

Bradley Roby, Tramaine Brock and recent third-round picks Isaac Yiadom and Brendan Langley comprise the Broncos’ corner contingent. Safety Justin Simmons also saw slot coverage work Sunday in Cincinnati. Taylor has manned the slot at times during his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. Suffers Fractured Fibula

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. suffered a fractured fibula in today’s game against the Bengals, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Following the contest, Harris said he won’t require surgery and could return if Denver makes the playoffs, tweets Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic.

The Broncos wouldn’t be in line for a postseason berth if the 2018 campaign ended today, but they are in the hunt. Per the New York Times, Denver has a 21% of making the playoffs after defeating Cincinnati today. But the task of getting into the tournament will become all the more difficult without Harris, who is far-and-away the Broncos’ best defensive back.

Harris, 29, has played nearly every defensive snap (98.3%) for the Broncos this season, lining up on the outside in Denver’s base defense and moving to the slot in nickel and dime packages. For his efforts, Pro Football Focus ranks Harris as the NFL’s fifth-best cornerback, behind only Stephon Gilmore, Kareem Jackson, Desmond King, and Byron Jones. Harris also ranks eighth league-wide in yards per pass allowed, per Football Outsiders’ charting data.

Harris was loosely mentioned in trade rumors earlier this year, although there was never any indication Denver was serious about moving him. Instead, it appeared other NFL clubs were simply curious as to whether Harris was available. Signed to an incredibly affordable contract, Harris’ $8.5MM annual salary ranks just 21st among cornerbacks. He’s signed through 2019, and will make a base salary of $7.8MM next year.

Given that they released veteran Adam Jones last month, the Broncos don’t have a ton of depth at cornerback. Tramaine Brock will be in line to start opposite Bradley Roby, while Isaac Yiadom and Brendan Langley could also see more time. Theoretically, Denver could express interest in re-signing Jones, although he displayed a steep drop in performance before being cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Carr, Raiders, Peterson, Taylor

We learned earlier this morning that Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson has requested a trade, though the team wants to keep him. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Jackson, on his way to the team bus this morning, declined to comment on the report.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league (Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who says many GMs expect there to be three to five “impactful” deals over the next 48 hours, offers a helpful primer, which includes a list of some of the most-discussed players on the market):

  • Albert Breer of TheMMQB says that the Raiders may not be done dealing just yet, though he does not expect the team to move Derek Carr (indeed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported this morning that the Raiders have told Carr that he is the quarterback of the present and future). However, Oakland is open to moving Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley, though the Raiders are driving a “hard bargain” with teams interested in Conley.
  • Breer names a number of other players whose names we have not heard in recent rumblings but who could nonetheless be on the move: the PackersHa Ha Clinton-Dix, the 49ersPierre Garcon and Jimmie Ward, the CardinalsChandler Jones, and the BroncosShane Ray and Brandon Marshall. Breers adds that San Francisco would need to get something “significant” to deal Ward. He also says that, while teams are certainly interested in Denver corners Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, he thinks it would be difficult for the team to trade either.
  • If they had elected to trade Patrick Peterson, La Canfora writes that the Cardinals could have received a bounty for him, and may have even landed multiple first-round picks (in fact, several teams were already prepared to offer a first- and second-rounder). JLC reports that Peterson was considered the “crown jewel” of the deadline, and given his attractive contract status, he may be the subject of renewed trade rumors during the offseason.
  • Breer also writes that the Browns are open to trading Tyrod Taylor, whose contract structure could make a deal feasible. Meanwhile, Tony Grossi of ESPN.com suggests that Cleveland GM John Dorsey may be trying to acquire wide receiver help (Twitter link).
  • The Bills remain unlikely to trade LeSean McCoy, per Schefter.
  • Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has demonstrated a proclivity for making trades, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says Maccagnan has been doing his due diligence on everyone, including big-name players. But while there is a sense that New York could swing a deal, the fact that the team is in a no-man’s land between buyer and seller, and the fact that the roster does not have many tradeable pieces, could make a trade difficult to pull off.

Trade Rumors: Raiders, Cooper, Cowboys, Broncos

The trade deadline is just nine days away, and earlier this morning, we learned that the Saints and Eagles could be two of the most aggressive teams as they seek to bolster their rosters for a potential championship run. Here are a few more notes from the trade market:

  • Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link), many Raiders players believe that head coach Jon Gruden is simply not happy with his collection of talent, and that there will be major roster turnover within the next several years. In fact, those players feel it will take up to two years for Gruden to assemble the type of roster he wants, and while rival GMs are not sure they can swing a deal with Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie alone, they believe they can make headway with Gruden. The Raiders are clearly in a state of upheaval right now, and the sense is that everyone on the team is available for the right price.
  • Raiders receiver Amari Cooper is clearly available via trade, and Rapoport says that the team has had the most significant discussions about Cooper with NFC East clubs, including the Cowboys. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirms that Dallas is doing its due diligence on Cooper, and Albert Breer of TheMMQB thinks there would be teams willing to part with a second-round choice for him, though it does not seem likely that Oakland will get the first-rounder it is reportedly seeking. Breer reports that the team wants a third-round pick in exchange for safety Karl Joseph.
  • In addition to Cooper, the Cowboys are monitoring Dolphins WR DeVante Parker and Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The Eagles have also spoken to Miami about Parker, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter).
  • Teams are very much interested in Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and corners Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Schefter writes that Denver is willing to part with Thomas, but not Sanders.
  • The Jaguars are not mulling a trade for a quarterback to challenge incumbent Blake Bortles, per Schefter. Despite another mediocre season from Bortles, the Jags “believe that the quarterback position is the least of their issues.”

Extra Points: Bryant, Bell, Cards, ASJ, Harris

Perhaps a “stop us if you’ve heard this before” tagline is appropriate, but Dez Bryant said he intends to sign with a team soon. The former Cowboys wide receiver tweeted “soon” in response to a question about when he planned to end his stay in free agency. This is obviously not the first, second or third time Bryant has discussed his employment plans or hopes, but it’s the latest. Sunday will mark the fourth set of games elapsed without Bryant on a roster. He will turn 30 this season and will be tasked with learning a new offense quickly. It’s not a great situation for the Pro Bowler as October approaches.

Week 4 Sunday is nearly upon us. Here’s what’s going on around the league leading up to it:

  • Another year’s bringing uncertainty opposite Patrick Peterson in Arizona. The Cardinals have struggled for several seasons to fill their No. 2 cornerback job, and the player they acquired to be the latest solution is now in a competition with Bene Benwikere. The Cards benched Jamar Taylor in Week 3 and now have he and Benwikere competing for the other starting job, Bob McManamon of the Arizona Republic notes. These two follow the likes of Brandon Williams and Justin Bethel in the Cardinals’ continuous search to find a reliable starter opposite Peterson. While both players will still play against the Seahawks, per Steve Wilks, this being a competition again is notable given the team’s recent history here.
  • The Jets offered Austin Seferian-Jenkins $8MM over two years, but he chose to depart for Jacksonville for a two-year, $10MM agreement. Nevertheless, Todd Bowles doesn’t begrudge his former tight end for departing for a bit more cash. “Nothing personal,” Bowles said, via John Rowe of NorthJersey.com. “The timing wasn’t right. He got away and that’s just part of free agency every year. We lose some and we keep some. But the guys have done a good job filling in right now.” Eric Tomlinson leads Jets tight ends with three receptions for 45 yards. Seferian-Jenkins’ 50-reception season was the most among Gang Green tight ends since Dustin Keller caught 65 passes for 815 yards in 2011. ASJ, though, only turned his 50 grabs into 357 yards. The new Jags pass-catcher has nine receptions for 66 yards entering Week 4.
  • Gang Green resides as a possible landing spot for Le’Veon Bell, in the view of ESPN’s Josina Anderson (Instagram link). She lists the Jets, Eagles and Packers as being possible fits for the disgruntled running back. The Jets lead this trio with $16MM-plus in cap space. The Eagles hold less than $5MM. Bell is attached to a $10MM-plus prorated version of his franchise tag salary.
  • The Broncos have not found a replacement for Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby is struggling going into a key game against the Chiefs. This has left Denver’s once-vaunted secondary in trouble, and it continues to force Chris Harris — arguably this decade’s premier slot defender — to play the slot on passing downs. “I like being on the outside because that’s where I can get more picks,’’ Harris said, via 9News’ Mike Klis. “I can read the quarterback more; I can use my coverage skills a lot more. I just think I can make more plays. In the slot, I’m always with my back to the quarterback; I’m man to man most of the time; I can’t see where the ball’s going. So, it’s hard to make those plays.” Late last season, the All-Pro corner expressed a desire to be used on the outside in more than just base sets, but that hasn’t come to pass this season. Denver, which has vacillated between using Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock as its No. 3 corner, ranks 21st against the pass through three games. The team hasn’t finished outside the top five in aerial deterrence in five seasons.

AFC Rumors: Gronk, Luck, Bell, Broncos

Rob Gronkowski is still operating on a contract he signed in 2012, slightly before he placed his name among the all-time tight end greats, but is committed to returning for a ninth season regardless. Reports of Patriots negotiations with Gronkowski on a revised 2018 deal emerged months ago, but nothing’s been resolved. That’s led some other executives around the conference to believe the Patriots are still motivated to trade their superstar pass-catcher.

Where’s the restructure of his contract?” one AFC personnel executive said, via Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal (via NESN.com). “Until that’s done, I think he’s still available. I wouldn’t be surprised if (Bill) Belichick is going to test Gronk’s buy-in with the contract.”

The Pats are believed to have shopped Gronk to the Texans, Titans, Lions and 49ers. The 29-year-old All-Pro remains on New England’s roster but without the kind of pay-bump possibility 2017’s incentive package brought. Three of the five execs Bedard spoke with believe the Pats and Gronkowski will reach an agreement to redo his deal, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet opens the door to rumblings of a trade — one that wouldn’t be out of character for Belichick. Two other AFC execs expect a harder fight from the Patriots, given that Gronk hinted at retirement and skipped OTAs.

Here’s the latest on some other AFC standouts:

  • On the topic of impasses for All-Pros, Le’Veon Bell remains focused on a deal that represents a combination of his abilities on the ground and through the air — a demand that could be up to $17MM AAV. Although the Steelers‘ talks with their star running back resumed, they are still unlikely to produce a long-term deal, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Fittipaldo is the latest to confirm Bell turned down a contract proposal that would have ensured he made $30MM in 2017 and ’18, adding it was a five-year offer. Bell’s entrance to the league as a 2013 second-round pick, and a player who has earned less than 2016 first-rounder Ezekiel Elliott (since Bell has yet to sign his $14.5MM 2018 tender, this is still accurate), is helping drive Bell to take this hardline stance, per Fittipaldo.
  • While this isn’t exactly full confirmation, signs point to Andrew Luck participating in a passing summit with some of his pass-catchers at his alma mater. Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers tweeted he’s off to Stanford, where Luck spends time training during the offseason. Mike Chappell of Fox 59 assumes Luck will be throwing Rogers and others as he continues the final stages of his exhaustive rehab program. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t qualify as particularly newsworthy. But considering Luck’s progress in June, every throw the passer makes will be relevant as he prepares to surmount what’s been a significant hurdle to return to the field.
  • Chris Harris has some interesting incentives in his contract, one the Broncos adjusted this year. The standout cornerback’s been attached to an incredibly team-friendly deal the past four years, and the Broncos added $3MM in incentives. Some of those escalators can only be triggered by team success, with the six-, eight- and 10-win benchmarks representing possible six-figure bumps for the 29-year-old corner. Harris preferred that being part of his contract. “Last year was unacceptable as a team,” Harris said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required) in an expansive piece on Denver’s DBs. “This year I’m putting that in my contract to make sure these guys are on the same page as me, how I think on the field and prepare them for games.”
  • Jhabvala adds that Denver’s Su’a Cravens addition could threaten Will Parks‘ role more than anyone else’s. The third-year defender serves as a backup safety and occasional dime linebacker, and Cravens looks set to make a strong push to assume that role for a team that gave up a fifth-round pick to get him. The Broncos were said to view Cravens strictly as a safety, but the former second-round pick played a hybrid role with the Redskins in 2016.

Broncos Notes: Keenum, Harris, Draft, Dixon

Mock drafts have gone in numerous directions regarding the Broncos‘ No. 5 overall pick, and it’s possible the team could make yet another big investment at the position. But if they do, Case Keenum will not be ceding the reins anytime soon. John Elway confirmed that if the Broncos do select a quarterback at No. 5 overall the recently signed quarterback would be the unquestioned first-stringer.

Case is our starter,’’ Elway said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “We’ll cross that road when we get there. Every situation for young quarterbacks is different. I think it’s different in today’s world, and the fact that it depends on what kind of football team those guys step onto.”

The 2016 Eagles thrust Carson Wentz into duty from the start because they traded Sam Bradford, whereas the 2017 Bears allowed Mike Glennon four starts before turning to Mitch Trubisky. It can be expected Keenum will have a longer leash, if the Broncos opt to bypass a top-tier non-QB.

Here’s the latest out of Denver:

  • The Broncos have gotten All-Pro work from Chris Harris for No. 2 cornerback money over the past three seasons. They’ve agreed to incentivize the eighth-year corner’s deal, and Klis details what that will entail. Harris was a first-team All-Pro in 2016 and a second-teamer in Denver’s Super Bowl season; should he land on one of those two teams this year, he’ll earn $500K. Harris can collect $200K for a two-interception season, and if he reaches five picks, Klis reports that bumps up to $500K. Harris has intercepted two passes in each of the past three seasons. Interestingly, the Broncos’ win total will impact their top corner as well. Klis reports Harris playing 65 percent of Denver’s snaps and the team winning six games will mean a $300K bonus, with a 75 percent snap season and eight Bronco wins meaning that spikes to $600K. Harris, who has an $8.5MM base salary in 2018, has been a full-time player for the past six seasons. If Denver returns to the playoffs, the soon-to-be 29-year-old DB earns $300K.
  • Prior to their trade earlier tonight, the Broncos and Giants had been circling each other about a deal for Riley Dixon for a bit now, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Klis reports (via Twitter) Vance Joseph told the incumbent punter the day the team signed Marquette King he would be moved. Multiple teams were interested in the third-year specialist, per Klis.
  • Elway appears to have evolved on his affinity for cannon-armed QBs. The addition of Keenum, who does not have an upper-echelon arm the way Paxton Lynch does, marked a change of pace for a GM that’s targeted tall passers with strong arms. “I was a lot more six or seven years ago, but then we had Peyton (Manning), right?’’ Elway said, via Klis. “Peyton was more of the cerebral type. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been doing this job as far as what certain quarterbacks have success with.”
  • However, the GM that traded Tim Tebow after a memorable season doesn’t regard it as a must to have a mobile quarterback. “The bottom line is that I believe the one thing is that you got to be able to win from the pocket,” the eighth-year exec said. “You can win games, but you can’t win championships unless you have the ability to win it from the pocket. Then if you can get out and move around and create, and do those types of things then that’s an added bonus.” While the Broncos have been connected to Baker Mayfield, an earlier report indicated they were high on Josh Rosen — the least mobile of the top four QBs in this class.