Chris Harris (CB)

Broncos Exercise Sanders, Harris Options

As expected, Broncos picked up Emmanuel Sanders‘ $1.5MM option on Monday, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). With that, Sanders has $1.5MM fully guaranteed on his scheduled $10.25MM payout for 2019. For his part, Sanders has said he’s way ahead of schedule in his rehab from an Achilles injury. 

The Broncos also picked up their option on cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (Twitter link). The option, worth $1MM, will be followed by an additional $7.9MM payout in 2019.

Sanders, who will turn 32 on Sunday, recently balked at a potential pay cut. The Broncos, however, did not ask for a pay cut, so that was pretty much a moot point. Thanks to his fast recovery, Sanders should be able to return at some point during training camp.

Harris, meanwhile, is entering the final season of a five-year, $42.5MM deal. The contract has proven to be a tremendous value for the Broncos as Harris has blossomed into one of this era’s best cornerbacks. In 2018, Harris graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 overall CB. An extension could be on the way, but the Broncos first want to see how free agency plays out.

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Broncos, Chris Harris Discussing Deal

Although John Elway said during his Combine presser an extension for Chris Harris was not in the works, the Broncos are beginning to do homework on this situation.

The Broncos met with Harris’ camp in Indianapolis, and the talks were “very productive,” Troy Renck of Denver7 reports (Twitter links). Harris said recently he would be open to a re-up, and Renck adds the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback wants to retire as a Bronco.

Now 29, Harris would seemingly be in stronger negotiating position perhaps even than he was when he signed his team-friendly extension late in the 2014 season. Unlike at that time, the Broncos have no other surefire answers at cornerback. At the time of Harris’ previous extension, the Broncos were finishing their first year with what became a formidable cornerback trio. Denver’s 2014 acquisitions of Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby helped anchor the eventual Super Bowl champions’ defense, but the Harris-Talib-Roby era is ending. Shortly after free agency opens, it is likely Roby will be employed elsewhere, too.

Also expected to let Tramaine Brock walk, the Broncos are searching for a No. 2 cornerback. Vic Fangio is expected to install more zone looks, following up several seasons of man-based schemes in Denver, but the new coach praised Harris as a key component of his upcoming defense.

Harris is entering the final season of a five-year, $42.5MM deal. A Pro Bowler before that somewhat surprising contract was signed, Harris became one of this era’s top corners over the course of this deal, picking up three more Pro Bowl honors and an All-Pro cameo. Most recently, he graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 overall corner in 2018. Given Denver’s immense need at this spot, and Harris’ performance on a below-market deal, it would make sense he will want a significant raise — perhaps at least in the Casey Hayward neighborhood ($11.4MM AAV).

Denver is expected to pursue corners in free agency and the draft, per Renck. The Broncos hold $34.5MM in cap space. A Harris extension could inflate that figure, though the ninth-year corner’s has a manageable $8.8MM cap number in 2019.

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Broncos Rumors: Murray, Paradis, Keenum

Although the Broncos agreed to acquire Joe Flacco, they will still be linked to this year’s top rookie quarterbacks — as they were last year. If Kyler Murray is available at No. 10, they may serve as a spot for teams looking to trade up. John Elway does not appear to believe the shorter passer would be a fit for an offense that will use plenty of under-center looks under new OC Rich Scangarello, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). The Broncos passed on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen last year and have been connected to Drew Lock. If Denver sticks at No. 10 and chooses a non-quarterback, the team will have had back-to-back top-10 picks without addressing its long-term QB need with one of them. The 2020 draft is expected to have high-profile passers, but it’s obviously no lock the Broncos will be in position to draft or trade up for one.

Here is the latest from Denver (via Indianapolis):

  • Despite the Flacco deal, Elway’s preference is to keep Case Keenum. It would take a restructured deal, though, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. Keenum is attached an untenable $21MM cap number. With Flacco set to bring an $18.5MM figure to Denver, it is hard to see Keenum staying due to the pay cut it would require. The 30-year-old incumbent has not requested a trade, Elway said (per the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter), adding the Broncos would allow him to seek one.
  • Matt Paradis probably looms as the Broncos’ top free agent priority. Elway has spoken with the Broncos’ center of the past four years and informed him they would like him back, Jhabvala tweets. But Paradis’ injury and price point will be a factor. The 29-year-old snapper has been expected to reach free agency, where a new market-setting deal may well await him — considering teams’ need for higher-end linemen. However, multiple executives predicted (via O’Halloran, Twitter link) Paradis will end up back in Denver on a one-year deal because of the broken fibula that ended his season last November.
  • The Broncos’ need for a cornerback is as great as it has been in five years, and Elway acknowledged (via Klis, on Twitter) the team needs to find a No. 2 corner to team with All-Pro Chris Harris. This would seem to point to Bradley Roby departing, which has been the expectation. Vic Fangio said (via Jhabvala) the Broncos will let Roby test free agency, a good sign he will not be back in 2019.
  • As for Harris, Elway said the team has not considered an extension yet and whether or not the Broncos do go in this direction will depend on their free agency period, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). However, Renck added earlier (Twitter link) the expectation is the Broncos will meet with Harris’ agent at the Combine. The 29-year-old corner has been one of Denver’s cornerstone players this decade, and with Roby likely to leave and Aqib Talib having been traded, Harris represents the Broncos’ only surefire option at corner. Denver is also set to let Tramaine Brock walk.
  • On its offensive line, Denver will bring back Ronald Leary, Elway confirmed (via Jhabvala, on Twitter). Leary has more than $5MM in injury guarantees due if he cannot pass a physical by March 17. It’s been previously reported the veteran guard will be unable to pass said physical by then. Leary has seen both of his Denver seasons end early because of injury. Also on the Broncos’ O-line: Elway said (per Renck, on Twitter) the team would like to re-sign right tackle starter Jared Veldheer and utility blocker Billy Turner. If Veldheer departs, the Broncos would have a sixth Week 1 right tackle starter in six years.

Broncos Notes: Harris, Flacco, LBs, Leary

With Aqib Talib having been traded and Bradley Roby likely to leave Denver as a free agent, the Broncos have work to do to repair their once-formidable cornerback corps. However, the third player from the team’s longtime trio may be in position to sign a third contract soon. Chris Harris is entering a contract year, and with the Broncos having no other foundational pieces at this position, it would seemingly behoove them to enter into extension talks with their versatile All-Pro. Harris has said he is open to signing a third Broncos contract, and Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes the 29-year-old defender will be on the 2019 team, as opposed to being shopped around, and is a likely target for an extension. One of this era’s premier corners, Harris nonetheless has a manageable cap number this season ($8.77MM), so an extension would stand to be more about keeping him in the fold than reducing his 2019 figure.

Denver is also expected to let Tramaine Brock walk, so cornerback — for the first time since the Broncos swapped out Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Talib and Roby five years ago — is a major need for this franchise.

Here is the latest from Denver, shifting to its quarterback decision:

  • Joe Flacco will be the fourth Broncos Week 1 starting quarterback in the past five seasons, and thus far the reaction to Denver’s move has skewed negative. But multiple executives viewed this as potentially a short-term gain, with O’Halloran noting one called this a solid move for both the Broncos and Ravens and another seeing the 34-year-old passer having multiple good years left. One defensive assistant, however, disagreed, viewing the veteran as having little quality football left. Flacco has not ranked above 19th in QBR since the 2014 season, when he was ninth. The Broncos will attempt to place him in a similar offense to the Gary Kubiak-coordinated attack that unleashed Flacco five years ago, but with so much time passing, it’s obviously no guarantee Flacco can return to form.
  • The Broncos prioritized Brandon Marshall over Danny Trevathan three years ago, in extending the former and letting the latter walk as a free agent. But in cutting Marshall this week, the Broncos jettisoned their top coverage linebacker. They are expected to look for help on this front in the draft, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Denver still has plus run defender Todd Davis and 2018 fourth-rounder Josey Jewell, but Klis writes the team will look for a rangier addition to complement its incumbents.
  • Offensive line will also be a need for the Broncos, with free agent center Matt Paradis‘ status up in the air. But one member is in line to return. Ronald Leary will not be ready to pass a physical by March 17, Klis tweets. This would fully guarantee $5.35MM of the guard’s $8.1MM salary. Unless the Broncos want to eat a reasonable amount of dead money, as they did upon releasing Menelik Watson last year, Leary can be expected back. The 29-year-old guard has played well in Denver but finished the past two seasons on IR, a 2018 Achilles injury shelving him after seven games.

Broncos Notes: Flacco, Draft, Marshall

The Broncos may have acquired veteran signal-caller Joe Flacco earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean the organization won’t draft a quarterback in this year’s draft. A Broncos source told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report that the team wouldn’t balk at taking one of the top quarterback prospects.

“We’re going to take the best player on our board when the pick comes up,” the source said. “Period.”

Of course, that quote indicates that the team won’t specifically target a quarterback, but it also shows that the team will be flexible heading into the draft. As Miller notes, the Broncos have been connected to Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, although the prospect isn’t projected to be a top-10 pick (Denver’s slotted in at the 10th-overall pick).

Let’s check out some more notes out of Denver…

  • The Broncos will be searching for some help at cornerback this offseason, according to ESPN’s Jeff LegwoldBradley RobyTramaine Brock and Jamar Taylor are all set to hit free agency, meaning the team will need to search for someone to play opposite Chris Harris. The veteran defensive back recognizes that his team will be seeking reinforcement in the secondary, and he’s confident that new head coach Vic Fangio will help to revitalize the entire unit. “It’s like I’ve said, I think we just haven’t evolved here,” Harris said. “You know, after the Super Bowl [in 2016], it’s like we kind of just got stagnant. We haven’t evolved. We’ve got to evolve with everything … get better as players, all of us. I just think this past year we were kind of behind.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Broncos weren’t going to be picking up linebacker Brandon Marshall‘s option, making him a free agent. The 29-year-old emerged as a starting-caliber player during his tenure in Denver, and he’s been productive in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. Marshall believes that versatility will help him as he searches for his next gig. “I think that’s going to help me a lot (in free agency),” he told Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. “I was in a 4-3 my first year starting in Denver and playing a 3-4 will let teams know I can do it all.”
  • Back to Flacco, we heard earlier this week that the team doesn’t intend to re-work the veteran’s contract. The 34-year-old is under contract in each of the next three seasons at base salaries of $18.5MM, $20.25MM, and $24.25MM, although none of that money is guaranteed.

Chris Harris Open To Broncos Extension

Chris Harris suffered a fractured fibula in early December but returned to play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. He is open to parlaying that momentum into another Broncos contract.

Denver formed probably the NFL’s best cornerback trio from 2014-17, but the trade of Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby‘s likely free agency departure leave Harris the last remaining member of that group. The All-Pro slot defender has one season left on his contract and would be ready to discuss another Denver extension.

Definitely open to an extension, whenever they call me,” Harris said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. “I’m 29 right now. But I have a lot of juice left. I’m not close to being done. I feel like I’m getting better.”

Although Harris has been attached to a team-friendly, five-year pact worth $42.5MM since the end of the 2014 season, he has been one of this decade’s premier cornerbacks. Pro Football Focus again graded him as a top-five corner this season. Following the injuries to Harris and Emmanuel Sanders in a three-day span, the Broncos finished 0-4 after mounting a midseason win streak.

With Harris taking a discount for his second contract, it would stand to reason he would want to be paid like a top-tier corner on his next deal. It will likely cost the Broncos eight figures annually to keep their longest-tenured defensive back long-term. Elway traded a 31-year-old Talib this past offseason but has not been averse to retaining older talent at this position. One of his first acts as GM was signing Champ Bailey to a second Broncos extension.

Having given Harris an incentive package in 2018 and not yet identifying surefire future starters, it would stand to reason the Broncos would be open to a Harris re-up. The Broncos may well lose their Nos. 2-3 corners this offseason, with Tramaine Brock‘s one-year deal having expired. Denver drafted Brendan Langley and Isaac Yiadom in the past two third rounds, but neither’s starter potential is certain. Langley was bumped back to the practice squad for much of this season; Yiadom played 263 snaps as a rookie.

Cornerback resides as one of the Broncos’ top needs. A boundary defender in base defenses but largely a slot cover man, Harris would prefer whomever the Broncos bring in have inside-defending capabilities. Though, his acumen in that area may make that unrealistic.

Oh, yeah, if we can find somebody who can play in the slot and I can just match the No. 1 guy, I would love that,” Harris said. “That would be ideal for me. But we have to find that guy. It’s hard. We’ll see happen with Roby’s situation or see if we can find some other guys.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

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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.

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