Chris Harris has long been a fan-favorite, the underdog-turned-superstar, and a cornerstone of the Denver defense as one of the most dominant cornerbacks in the NFL.
But his time in the Mile High City is quickly coming to an end.
Or, at least it sure seems that way.
Finally, after a months-long standoff between the two sides, Denver caved, giving Harris a raise from $8.9 million this year to $12.05 million and simultaneously not extending his deal into the future.
“This contract adjustment recognizes [Harris’] value to the team and the high expectations we have for Chris as a Bronco this season and hopefully for years to come,” GM John Elway said of the agreement, holding out hope this isn’t the end for “Strap Harris” in Denver.
But, Harris told Mike Klis, “I’m the 4th cornerback this year (in 2019 cash) and after this season I’ll hit free agency and be No. 1.”
The outspoken corner who loves to put on a show and trash-talk on the field isn’t mincing words; he’s hitting that free agent market in 2020 and he’s going to continue to get paid. What it means is this; his ninth season in Denver will almost certainly be the last.
So, enjoy the shut-down cornerback while you can, fans, before he rides off into the sunset and onto another team next year.
For an aging cornerback still on top of his game and still widely regarded as one of the elite players in the NFL, it’s a smart move to get paid in 2020 and for the few years beyond. And for Denver, it was also the right move to simply sign him to a one-year deal, because, let’s face it, cornerback is a young man’s game.
As a young man, Harris exceeded expectations ten-fold. He went from undrafted player to shut-down starter and never relinquished his spot.
In 2012, his second season, we all saw the player who became a beloved Broncos star. He picked off three passes that year, returned two of them for touchdowns and even came up with a career-high 2.5 sacks. He continued to be crucial the next season, and when he tore his ACL in the playoffs, the Broncos defense limped their way into Super Bowl XLVIII where they were trounced by the Seattle Seahawks.
Ironically, Von Miller tore his ACL that season, too, as Denver played their biggest game in nearly 20 years without their two best defenders. At the end of the 2015 season, though, both Harris and Miller were able to play in Super Bowl 50 and each contributed in a huge way to Denver’s third Vince Lombardi Trophy.
With Miller attacking quarterbacks and Harris shadowing receivers, the Broncos one-two punch became the NFL’s best defense in 2015 and continued to prove defense wins championships.
Miller and Harris have been forever linked, two crucial players who each entered the league in 2011 and have helped the Broncos enjoy one of the best defenses in the league ever since. Together, they’ve piled up 11 Pro Bowl appearances, four All-Pro selections and one Super Bowl MVP.
And while both of them deserve to be in the Ring of Fame one day, their more immediate futures are set to take divergent paths.
While Harris wants to play for the most money, Miller wants to be a Bronco for life.
Broncos fans have been extremely lucky to enjoy the pairing of Miller and Harris for the last eight seasons, but all good things have to come to an end.
One problem for 2020 and beyond; who will fill the giant shoes of the undersized Harris? While Elway and the Broncos have already bolstered their edge-rushing recently with the drafting of Bradley Chubb, the longterm future of cornerback in Denver is unknown. After this season, Denver has Kareem Jackson (who will play mostly safety) and Bryce Callahan locked up for only two more seasons, and Isaac Yiadom is a huge question mark as of now.
So, enjoy Harris while he’s still in orange and blue, fans. Because, as he’s indicated, this will be his last season in the Mile High City and dominant cornerbacks are difficult to discover.