Chris Harris (CB)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Broncos Notes: Free Agents, Simmons, McManus

Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback turned president of football operations John Elway has not needed to break the bank retaining the team’s free agents over the past few years. Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post opines that this offseason may force Denver to change that approach. O’Halloran looks at every Bronco set for free agency and analyzes whether the team should try to resign them.

Veterans Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe highlight a crop that includes multiple starters and a number of main rotational pieces. At just 3-8, Denver has a lot of holes to fill, but they will have over $70MM in cap space to target more outside talent and retain the internal players they want to keep.

Here’s more from the franchise in the Mile High City:

  • Regardless of how Denver handles the rest of their free-agent crop, the Broncos need to retain safety Justin Simmons, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. While the team obviously hopes to return to contention as soon as possible, the team has to wonder whether players like Harris and Wolfe will still be playing at a good enough level by the time they turn it around. Just 26 years old, Simmons fits for the franchise regardless of how long it takes them to rebuild.
  • While it had little impact on the outcome of the Broncos 20-3 loss on Sunday against the Bills, kicker Brandon McManus told reporters postgame that the weather conditions in Buffalo resulted in the most difficult kick of his career, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post. With seventeen mile per hour winds at kickoff, McManus managed to make a 45-yard field goal kicking against the win, accounting for the teams only points. However, his two kickoffs against the win failed to reach the Bills ten-yard line.

Deadline Fallout: Harris, Jets, L. Williams

Despite a great deal of hype, Tuesday’s trade deadline went out with a whimper. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, that was largely because the presumed sellers — most notably the Bengals, Redskins, and Broncos — overvalued their assets. It was expected that Cincinnati’s and Washington’s stubbornness could torpedo potential deals, but Denver was similarly obstinate. For instance, the Broncos were asking for a second-round draft pick for CB Chris Harris when the market dictated that a fourth-rounder would be an appropriate return.

Now for more deadline fallout:

  • Jets RB Le’Veon Bell recently said that his former club, the Steelers, were interested in re-acquiring him in advance of the trade deadline, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirms that Pittsburgh did indeed speak with the Jets about Bell. However, when it became clear that the shoulder injury that James Conner sustained in the Steelers’ win over Miami last Monday wasn’t as serious as it first appeared, talks with Gang Green cooled. Bell wasn’t the only RB the Steelers were interested in, per Schefter, but he was easily the most prominent.
  • At least one team tried to blow the Jets away with an offer for defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, as Schefter writes in a separate piece. The unnamed club thought New York would be unable to turn down the blockbuster package of draft picks, but Williams was deemed untouchable by the Jets’ front office, and Gang Green stuck to its guns.
  • We already heard that the Giants would try to work out a contract extension with the newly-acquired Leonard Williams, but Schefter says Big Blue will open negotiations before Thanksgiving. Of course, it could be difficult for player and team to agree on Williams’ value, and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com believes that Williams is going to test free agency (Twitter link).
  • The Rams traded Aqib Talib to the Dolphins in a pure salary dump, as they gave Miami a 2020 fifth-rounder just to take on the remainder of Talib’s contract. Peter Schrager of the NFL Network says Talib believes he will be healthy enough to return to the field this season but is unsure as to whether he will suit up for Miami (Twitter link). He may elect to cool his heels before he hits the open market in March, but he holds no ill will towards LA.

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Lock, Harris, Raiders

Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is questionable for Kansas City’s upcoming game against the Vikings, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Mahomes, of course, was injured on Thursday Night Football of Week 7 against the Broncos during a quarterback sneak. In a freak incident, Mahomes dislocated his right kneecap.

He returned to practice just six days after the injury, but was quickly ruled out for last Sunday’s game against the Packers. While his status is still up in the air, Rapoport reiterates “At the least, he is considered to have a shot to play.” At 5-3, Kansas City has some breathing room in the AFC West divisional race. However, the chances of a high seed and a first-round bye would be greatly diminished the longer they have to stick with backup Matt Moore.

Here’s more from around the AFC West:

  • While quarterback Brandon Allen is currently next in line for the Broncos after Joe Flacco‘s injury landed him on injured reserve, the team plans to play rookie second-round pick Drew Lock in Denver’s final two games against the Lions and Raiders, according Mike Klis of 9News. Flacco was diagnosed with a disk injury in his neck that requires at least six weeks to recover. Given the Broncos 2-6 record, the team decided to shut down the veteran for the season. Allen is in his fourth NFL season, but has yet to appear in a regular season game.
  • After weeks of trade rumors, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris could be staying in the mile-high city beyond this season, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. With three young daughters and a fourth coming soon, Harris told Jhabvala he was “Definitely relieved and happy to be able to finish the year here.” The news comes as somewhat of a surprise given Harris’ tumultuous relationship with the organization over the past few seasons. However, according to Jhabvala, the team’s new coaching staff has meshed well with the upcoming free-agent.
  • Both Raiders centers Rodney Hudson and Andre James are listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup against the Lions. They both are dealing with ankle injuries and managed to practice, but according to head coach Jon Gruden, both were “sore.”

Deadline Fallout: Penny, Rams, Adams

Since using a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny last year, the Seahawks have not given him a lead backfield role. They preferred Chris Carson and Mike Davis leading the ball-carrying group last season and have Carson entrenched atop the depth chart this year. As such, the Lions expressed interest in Penny prior to Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline, John Clayton of ESPN 710 AM Seattle notes. Seattle sought a second-round pick for Penny, though it doesn’t sound like the team was shopping the second-year back. Penny can be under Seahawks control through 2022. The Lions have run into trouble in their backfield, losing starter Kerryon Johnson. They were interested in Kenyan Drake, but the Cardinals ended up making a deal with the Dolphins. Ty Johnson, Tra Carson and ex-Seahawk J.D. McKissic represent the Lions’ primary running back options for the stretch run.

Here is the latest deadline fallout:

  • The Dolphins will send the Rams a 2022 seventh-round pick for Aqib Talib, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. With Talib on IR until at least Week 15, the rebuilding team is likely only interested in the fifth-round 2020 choice it acquired. The 33-year-old cornerback looks headed toward free agency for the first time since 2014.
  • As for the Rams, they want to use some of the savings from this move to re-sign emerging linebacker Cory Littleton, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Littleton is one of a few key Rams on expiring contracts, joining Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler in that group. Playing on a second-round RFA tender, Littleton has operated as Los Angeles’ top linebacker this year and would stand to attract considerable interest as a 2020 UFA. With a high-end Jalen Ramsey re-up coming, the Rams will be tight on cap space, however, and may have to bid farewell to a few role players — like they did this offseason.
  • Chris Harris has stuck to his guns about testing free agency this time around. He signed a five-year, $42.5MM extension with the Broncos in late 2014, and that deal became one of the most team-friendly pacts in the league in the latter part of the 2010s. The 30-year-old cornerback does not plan to sign a Broncos extension before reaching the market, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. However, Harris has said he wants to finish his career in Denver. He and the Broncos were not close on terms this offseason, but Renck added a that third Broncos contract could be in play for the four-time Pro Bowler.
  • The Day 3 pick the Cowboys offered the Jets, in addition to the first-round pick included in the proposal, for Jamal Adams was either a fourth- or fifth-rounder, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The Jets wanted a first and a pair of seconds for the Pro Bowl safety, one GM Joe Douglas still calls firmly part of the team’s long-term plan, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini.

Lions Made Broncos Offer For Chris Harris

The 2019 trade deadline underwhelmed, when compared to the action of the offseason. Chris Harris was one of the marquee names not moved, but teams tried. One tried harder than the others, with Mike Klis of 9News tweeting the Lions were the only team to submit an offer.

Detroit proposed a deal that was not to Denver’s liking, however, making an offer that did not even meet a third-round price, per Klis. The Broncos were seeking a second-rounder for their high-end cornerback, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Both the Eagles and Texans pursued Harris, but Houston sent a third-rounder for Gareon Conley instead. Conley can be controlled through 2021, while Harris is in a contract year.

The Broncos can now recoup a possible third-rounder in 2021, if Harris signs a lucrative free agent deal, or resume extension talks. The sides were not particularly close on that end over the summer, leading to a one-year Harris pay raise. But with Harris profiling as the team’s only reliable corner, the 30-year-old departing would create a massive need for a franchise that has other key roster deficiencies.

This news comes a day after the Lions were listening on Darius Slay. The Eagles, interestingly, pursued both Harris and Slay. Denver, Detroit and Philadelphia will keep their previous setups, with the latter two attempting to contend this season with those.

The 2-6 Broncos certainly face the prospect of Harris leaving in 2020, seeing as the corner plans to test free agency — which he did not do when he signed a 2014 extension. But John Elway has precedent for extending older corners, having re-upped a 32-year-old Champ Bailey in his initial months on the job in 2011.

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