Chris Harris (CB)

AFC Rumors: Enunwa, Steelers, Harris

Quincy Enunwa missed all of the 2017 season and 15 games last year because of a neck injury, and the Jets have ruled him out for the 2020 campaign by placing him on the reserve/PUP list. While the veteran wideout will only turn 28 Sunday, he already faces the prospect of his career being over. Enunwa, however, is not conceding that yet.

If I’m capable of playing, then that’s what I’ll do,” Enunwa said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “If it comes down to the fact that the doctors say I can’t, there’s not much I can do. There’s really nothing I can do there, but if I have the ability to [play], the passion will always be there, the want-to will always be there.”

Enunwa signed a four-year, $33.4MM extension in December 2018. That deal included $20MM in guarantees, which have become crucial for the embattled receiver. The former sixth-round pick will earn $6MM in base salary this year and has a $4.1MM injury guarantee for 2021. Despite the Jets fining him $27K for missing two rehab sessions last year, Enunwa would like to stay with the team for the remainder of his career. It is unlikely, however, Enunwa — drafted two regimes ago — will be with the Jets in 2021. They can save $6MM by releasing him after this season.

I’m under contract. I want to be a Jet for life,” Enunwa said. “I saw Eli Manning say something. On his Twitter page he wrote, ‘Once a Giant, always a Giant, only a Giant.’ It would be cool to say that as a Jet.”

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Pittsburgh:

  • Ben Roethlisberger has progressed to the point he would have been ready to fully participate in Steelers OTAs, had those been non-virtual endeavors, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Roethlisberger threw with teammates recently and appears on track for Pittsburgh’s training camp. This would be big news for a team that did not address its quarterback situation this offseason.
  • One of Big Ben’s top targets underwent surgery earlier this offseason. Diontae Johnson went under the knife for a core muscle injury in February, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Johnson said he suffered the injury in Week 2. That did not deter him from leading all rookie wideouts with 59 catches — while posting 680 yards and five touchdowns — for a team that played most of the season two backup quarterbacks. Johnson hopes to be medically cleared within days, Fittipaldo adds.
  • Chris Harris confirmed he will play a familiar role with the Chargers. The ex-Broncos standout will play both outside and in the slot, per Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com (on Twitter). While Harris played mostly on the outside in 2019, he earned All-Decade acclaim by playing both roles during his previous Broncos seasons. With Casey Hayward and Desmond King in the fold, the Bolts figure to have considerable versatility in their Derwin James-led secondary this season.

Chris Harris To Sign With Chargers

Another key domino will fall, and the Chargers now have another key commitment from a veteran. Chris Harris will sign with the Bolts, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets

The Harris sweepstakes included numerous teams. The Eagles and Saints joined the fray later in the process, but Harris will defect from his nine-year post as one of the Broncos’ best players to join another AFC West team. Harris follows the likes of Trai Turner, Bryan Bulaga and Linval Joseph as experienced cogs headed to Los Angeles.

The path for Harris to join the Chargers was cleared earlier today when the team decided to roll with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback and put their cash elsewhere. Harris is set to earn $20MM over two years, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets.

Harris, 31 in June, has spent all nine of his NFL seasons to date with the Broncos. In the past, the Broncos have made an effort to keep him, though their offer of a $12MM/year deal before the 2019 trade deadline fell short. Reportedly, that offer included only one guaranteed season. Even though he didn’t play up to his usual standards in 2019, Harris set out to find something better.

I didn’t really do what I’ve done in the past,” Harris said recently. “I (previously) played everywhere on the field on the defensive side, getting everybody lined up, telling them what’s about to happen and things like that. But when really, when you just have me at corner, I’m just playing corner. I’m not doing everything that I’m doing on the football field.”

The Chargers weren’t the AFC West rival to chase Harris. The Raiders also made a play for him, Manish Mehta of the Daily News hears (via Twitter), but he did not want to play for them.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Chris Harris Market

A recent report indicated as many as 10 teams were interested in longtime Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, but not much has emerged on this front since the legal tampering period began. But this market may soon accelerate.

Despite having been mentioned as a Harris suitor before last year’s trade deadline and early this offseason, the Eagles were not included among the teams with reported interest entering free agency. That appears to have changed, with Troy Renck of Denver7 reporting (via Twitter) the Eagles are indeed pursuing the four-time Pro Bowler.

So are the Chargers, Renck adds, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets the Jets are in the mix as well. Both were mentioned in the previous group of Harris suitors. The Saints, however, were not. But they are now interested, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

The Eagles were mentioned as a Byron Jones suitor, but they watched him choose the Dolphins and a cornerback-record contract. It almost certainly will not take a $17MM-per-year deal to land Harris, who is entering his age-31 season. But given the elite slot work he has delivered for most of his career and his ability to be a high-end boundary corner as well, Harris will not come cheap.

Philadelphia re-signed Jalen Mills but plans to move him to safety. Ronald Darby is a free agent. The Eagles have struggled to find reliable cornerback play for years. Harris has been one of this era’s most reliable cover men, and with Jones and James Bradberry now off the market, this will be a key domino to fall.

The Bolts and Jets each reside in the top 10 in current cap space, each holding nearly $40MM as the official start of free agency looms in minutes. While the Chargers still have Casey Hayward and Desmond King under contract, the Jets possess a greater need after having also been linked to Jones and Bradberry. Gang Green did, however, re-signed Brian Poole. With Harris’ best work coming in the slot, the Jets’ Poole retention may impede them in a Harris pursuit.

New Orleans has well-paid veteran Janoris Jenkins on its payroll, with Marshon Lattimore now extension-eligible, and is up against the cap. The Saints would seemingly have to pitch their roster talent to Harris, who has voiced a desire to return to a winning situation but also to be paid what he’s worth after he took a Broncos-friendly deal late in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Tagovailoa, CBA, Chris Harris

One of the biggest stories of the 2020 draft is the health of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa of course suffered a brutal hip injury toward the end of the college football season that threatened to derail his pro career. Fortunately everything has gone smoothly with his recovery up until now, and he got another solid update recently. Tagovailoa had his four-month scans on the hip, something that was always considered a very important marker in the process, and everything went well, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Sources told Rapoport that the scans came back “very good with no concerns” and that they were “as positive as possible.” Rapoport notes that with this scan out of the way, Tagavailoa will now be able to ramp up his physical activity. It’s unclear when exactly he’ll be able to play again, but at the very least he’ll miss a good portion of the offseason program of whatever team drafts him. Despite the concerns over his hip, he still seems very likely to be off the board early in the first round, and potentially within the first few picks. Here’s to hoping everything continues to progress nicely and we see him back on the field soon.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • Another under the radar concession the players got in the new proposed CBA is a significant increase in offseason pay. Starting in 2021 the rates players are paid for minicamp and the preseason will go from $2K a week to $2.9K a week for veterans, and from $1.15K a week to $1.7K a week for rookies, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Klis also reports that every other year those numbers will increase an additional $300 per week for veterans and $150 per week for rookies. Many undrafted rookies who are part of the offseason 90-man roster but don’t stand any chance of making the team barely get anything for their efforts, so this will at least put a little additional cash in their pockets during training camp.
  • Chris Harris is looking for a big payday this offseason, and it looks like the cornerback won’t be back with the Broncos next year. In preparation for his first testing of the open market, the veteran fired his agent Fred Lyles and signed with a bigger firm, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. Ironically Jhabvala notes that Lyles also represents cornerback A.J. Bouye, who Denver just traded for to essentially replace Harris. Harris has always been a top corner but he’s now on the wrong side of 30, so it’ll be very interesting to see what his market looks like. He turned down an extension offer of $12MM annually from the Broncos last year.
  • In case you missed it, the NFL pushed back the franchise tag deadline as CBA talks continue to drag on.

AFC West Notes: C. Jones, Broncos, C. Harris

The Chiefs will hit star DT Chris Jones with the franchise tag, and Jones is none too happy about it. “It’s like a mix of emotions,” Jones said in a recent interview with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “Because you figure, you know, after four years, you do everything the right way, within the team way, you try to stay under the line, out of trouble, and be a good citizen for a team and for the city, you expect to be rewarded….It’s like, ‘Man, what else you want me to do?'”

Jones isn’t exactly the first player to express frustration with the tag, and Cowherd, as is his custom, did his best to wrangle noteworthy soundbites out of the 2019 Pro Bowler. But Jones will almost surely get the contract he’s looking for, either with the Chiefs or another club after a tag-and-trade. For what it’s worth, Florio does not believe KC will let Jones get away.

Now for more from the AFC West:

  • The Broncos made a splash today by acquiring CB A.J. Bouye from the Jaguars, which has furthered the belief that Chris Harris will leave in free agency. Indeed, Mike Klis of 9News believes that, unless Harris’ market falls dramatically, he will be suiting up elsewhere in 2020 (Twitter link). A team source acknowledged that Bouye’s presence makes it less likely Harris will be back, but the source did not close the door on the possibility (Twitter link via Klis).
  • After all, the Broncos still need another veteran CB, though Troy Renck of Denver7 believes the club will target a mid-range FA and draft a corner (Twitter link).
  • Another free agent the Broncos could have a tough time retaining is safety Will Parks. Renck reports in a full-length piece that Parks, lauded for his energy and versatility, has attracted significant interest from as many as 10 teams. However, the club has had positive dialogue with DE Derek Wolfe, per Renck. Wolfe has made it clear that he wants to remain in Denver.
  • The Raiders are one of the teams interested in Harris, and they also have their eye on one of the market’s other top CBs, Byron Jones.

Chris Harris Doesn’t Expect Broncos Return

Four-time Pro Bowler Chris Harris is on his way to free agency. Based on the lack of talks between him and the Broncos, he figures that he’s also on his way to a new team. 

[RELATED: Looking Back At Shannon Sharpe’s Departure From The Broncos]

I think that’s the direction right now,” Harris said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic). “I think everybody deserves to see what they’re worth, and I deserve it at this point. I think I worked my tail off for nine years, I gave the city every ounce of effort that I could give and, shoot, it’s time to see what everybody else thinks about me.”

Harris, 31 in June, has spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Broncos. The Broncos have made an effort to keep him, though their offer of a $12MM/year deal before last year’s trade deadline fell short. Reportedly, that offer included only one guaranteed season. In terms of real money, Harris can probably do a lot better elsewhere, even though he didn’t play up to his usual standards in 2019.

I didn’t really do what I’ve done in the past,” Harris said. “I (previously) played everywhere on the field on the defensive side, getting everybody lined up, telling them what’s about to happen and things like that. But when really, when you just have me at corner, I’m just playing corner. I’m not doing everything that I’m doing on the football field.”

In 2014, Harris passed up his chance at the open market by signing a team-friendly extension. He won’t be doing that this time as there should be several clubs ready to discuss deals in the $15MM/year range with him.

Other notable free agent corners this offseason include James Bradberry, Josh Norman, Logan Ryan, Byron Jones, and Mike Hilton. Meanwhile, teams are burning up the phone lines with interest in Lions star Darius Slay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Burrow, Harris, Texans, Raiders

Holding the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since they drafted Carson Palmer 17 years ago, the Bengals have been widely linked to Ohio native Joe Burrow with this selection. While Cincinnati is considering Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Chase Young at No. 1, the prospect of a Burrow-Bengals partnership not happening would surprise many in the NFL. It has become “quite clear” in the minds of several execs the Bengals will draft Burrow, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes. Unless a team comes in with a Ricky Williams-type trade, as one coach relayed to Miller, the Bengals are not expected to get cute with their pick. (The Saints traded their entire 1999 draft, plus first- and third-round picks in 2000 to the Redskins for Williams. The Bengals receiving any offer on this level would be shocking.) With the Bengals set to work with Andy Dalton on a trade, signs continue to point Burrow heading back to Ohio.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • The Broncos have a decision to make on Chris Harris. The four-time Pro Bowler will hit free agency for the first time, and a defection would give the Broncos their biggest cornerback need since before they traded for Champ Bailey 16 years ago. Nevertheless, the prospect of Harris seeing a better offer in free agency leads 9News’ Mike Klis to predict the 30-year-old defender will depart after nine seasons in Denver. The Broncos wanted to keep Harris, offering him a $12MM-AAV deal before last year’s trade deadline. However, Klis notes that deal only included one guaranteed season. Harris has long said he wants to retire in Denver but wanted to test free agency after signing a team-friendly extension back in 2014.
  • Despite the Texans releasing Vernon Hargreaves before the vesting of his fifth-year option, it is not out of the question they bring him back, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. The former Buccaneers first-round pick was set to make $9.59MM in 2020, and the Texans will consider re-signing him at a lower price. That will, however, depend on how Houston fares in free agency and the draft, per Wilson. So this process may take a while. Hargreaves, whom the Texans claimed off waivers late last season, would understandably explore his options elsewhere in the meantime.
  • Linked to Tom Brady, the Raiders also have a major need at wide receiver. This deficiency led Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic to predict the Vikings will send Stefon Diggs to Las Vegas (subscription required). The Raiders guaranteed Tyrell Williams‘ salary but remain on the lookout for receiving help, which will likely be required to entice Brady to leave New England (a scenario Kapadia also includes as one of his bold predictions). Diggs is signed through the 2023 season, and his $14.5MM cap hit will be much tougher for the Vikings to absorb than the Raiders. Still, Minnesota’s top-heavy setup at wide receiver will not make Diggs cheap. At 26, he is three years younger than Adam Thielen, thus raising the price of a prospective trade.

Eagles To Pursue CBs In Free Agency

The Eagles are expected to “go hard” after cornerbacks in free agency, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears. Philadelphia is projected to have around $44MM in cap space, and the club plans to use a big chunk of that on a CB or two.

The Broncos’ Chris Harris and the Cowboys’ Byron Jones are two of the biggest names being thrown around, and assuming they do not re-up with their current clubs, they will hit free agency with a good shot at a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $15MM+ per year with upwards of $45MM in full guarantees). However, the Eagles will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to upgrade their CB corps, per Pauline.

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are also eligible for free agency, and it’s unclear if the Eagles will bring back either player. They may explore a multiyear deal with Mills, who played decently after returning from injury in Week 7, but it would not be a surprise to see them part ways with Darby. Plus, as Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com writes, Philadelphia does not consider Rasul Douglas or Sidney Jones starter material, and both are trade candidates.

As such, there will clearly be room for several cornerbacks on the Eagles’ 2020 roster. In 2019, the team finished in the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense efficiency, per Football Outsiders, and in passing yards allowed per game, so an upgrade is in order. Of course, they did their best to swing a trade for a quality CB (including Harris) at this year’s trade deadline, but they ultimately did not want to part with the type of draft capital that such a trade would have required.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Offered Chris Harris Extension

Pro Football Focus rated Chris Harris as the second-best cornerback of the 2010s (Twitter link), and it looks like the acclaimed defender will stick to his offseason word and see how the NFL gauges his value exiting his age-30 season.

The Broncos, however, did make an extension offer before the trade deadline. Harris said (via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala, on Twitter) the team proposed a three-year, $36MM deal. This came months after the sides could not agree on extension terms over the summer, leading to a rare contract-year pay raise for the four-time Pro Bowler. The Broncos bumped Harris’ 2019 salary to $12.05MM. He was one of the top trade candidates in October, with the Lions making an offer. But the Broncos kept him.

Harris expects to have a new deal by the time the 2020 league year opens on March 18, with Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post adding (via Twitter) the nine-year veteran does not plan to take visits. That’s a common free agency practice for high-end players. Harris bypassed 2015 free agency to sign a five-year, $42.5MM deal to stay in Denver. Although some members of the organization would prefer the team retain Harris on a third contract, the final member of the Broncos’ No-Fly Zone secondary may well depart Denver.

John Elway has identified Justin Simmons as a player the Broncos would like to keep, and it looks like — via long-term deal before free agency or through the franchise tag — the breakout safety will be back in Denver next season. The nine-year GM did not commit to Harris in the same way, indicating it will be up to how the Broncos can fit contracts into their cap space — which currently is projected to stand at $65.6MM.

Injuries and inexperience at cornerback forced the Broncos to play Harris in a less familiar role this season. The Broncos did not use the acclaimed slot defender much in the slot this season. While Harris fared well against several high-end wideouts, he struggled at times as well. Pre-free agency extensions and franchise tags may well commence, but as of now Harris, Trae Waynes, Byron Jones and ex-Bronco Bradley Roby are among the top cornerbacks set for free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos, Lions Discussed Chris Harris Jr., Darius Slay Swap

The Broncos and Lions are playing Sunday afternoon, and they apparently discussed a potential blockbuster trade a couple of months back. The teams discussed a swap of cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Darius Slay, sources told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link).

We had heard that the Lions were the only team to make a formal offer for Harris, but this is the first we’ve heard of Slay being included in those discussions. Klis adds that Detroit was asking for more in addition to Harris, which killed the talks. When big name players get traded in the NFL it’s usually for draft picks, so a deal centered around two star players of the same position would’ve certainly been unusual. Harris originally demanded a trade or extension back around the draft, which resulted in a weeks-long standoff between the two sides.

There were murmurs of a potential deal during draft weekend, but eventually Denver agreed to give him a raise on his 2019 salary while not adding on any additional years. As the Broncos once again got off to a losing start, his name came up in trade talks at the deadline.

The Eagles pursued Slay heavily at the deadline, but a deal couldn’t get done. We didn’t hear anything about him heading to the Broncos, although reports at the time indicated the Lions’ asking price was sky-high. Both corners are having down years, and while Harris is going to enter unrestricted free agency, Slay still has one more year on his deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.