Chris Harris Jr. drama headed towards perplexing resolution

Sep 17, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (25) in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos need to figure out their identity.

Because at the moment the organization seems lost.

Are they in win now mode? Win from now and now on mode? Win in the future mode? Rebuild mode?

There are more mixed messages coming out of Dove Valley than a Monday night on “The Bachelorette” with Hannah Alabama.

There was the trade for Joe Flacco that screamed “win now” and then there was the trade for Drew Lock that reeked of a team ready to go through growing pains while the QB of the future learns on the job.

And then the prickly comments of Joe Flacco last week at Dove Valley, in which he essentially said he had no time to mentor Drew Lock, added to the mystery. Flacco wants to win now. He also doesn’t want to lose his job a second year in a row to a rookie quarterback.

But perhaps the biggest question in all of this pertains to the situation brewing with All Pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

Consider this from Broncos’ insider Mike Klis on Wednesday morning:

“John Elway and Fred Lyles (Chris Harris’ agent) had multiple discussions in recent days. Both sides have moved. Talks are focused on adjustment to Harris’ 2019 payout. Progress but still no agreement,” Klis tweeted.

And that’s essentially been the gist of every update we’ve received on Harris Jr. and his contract dispute in the past few days.

They’re working on getting him a massive bump in salary this year, but then he’ll likely hit the open market next offseason.

Say what?

The Broncos went 5-11, then 6-10, and no matter how bad you think Vance Joseph and his coaching staff were (they were really bad), this current Broncos bunch isn’t winning the Super Bowl this year. They’re just not.

So, what’s the point of bringing Flacco in and Harris Jr. back for just 2019? To save some face and bounce back with eight or nine wins? Then, when arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the league walks after this season, what’s left for 2020? Is that when the rebuild starts?

You’ll notice this column has a lot of question marks, because I’m just thinking out loud about a perplexing situation.

What the Broncos are currently doing (or attempting to do) with Harris Jr. shouldn’t be in consideration. In fact, they have two feasible options:

1) If Denver doesn’t think it’s in a Super Bowl window, then John Elway needs to trade Harris Jr. and get maximum value for him in the coming months. Losing him for nothing after this season (or a compensatory pick way down the road) pales in comparison to the kind of value the Broncos could get by trading him now.
2) If Denver does think it’s in a Super Bowl window, then Elway should give Harris Jr. a raise this season, but it also needs to come with an extension. Rip up the current deal and pay him $40M over the next three seasons — comfortably ahead of what Kareem Jackson is making.

That scraps option No. 3 which is to just pay Harris Jr. for this year, which again, makes no sense for the current Broncos or the future of the franchise.

It’s a weird time to be a football fan in Denver, as this ship has looked rudderless ever since the day Peyton Manning retired. With a chance to finally get it back on track, Elway needs to make up his mind and give an honest internal assessment of where he thinks this team stands.

The Broncos need to figure out their identity.

Because right now it just looks like more losses.