Should the Broncos franchise tag Shelby Harris? PFF weighs in

Shelby Harris celebrates. Credit: David Berding, USA TODAY Sports.
Shelby Harris celebrates. Credit: David Berding, USA TODAY Sports.

The Denver Broncos will be forced to make huge decisions on several key players this off-season, as stars like Justin Simmons and Shelby Harris, who have arguably been the Broncos’ two best defensive players of the Vic Fangio era.

As always, the Broncos will be able to franchise tag one of their impending free agents, but with so many key players in need of a new deal, who gets that tag will be a tough decision to make.

In a recent article from Pro Football Focus, Brad Spielberger looked at each of the 32 teams, whether or not they should franchise tag a player, and if they should, who that player is.

For the Broncos, Spielberger chose Shelby Harris over Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons.

“The Broncos have addressed the interior of their defensive line consistently the past two seasons, with third-round picks in 2019 and 2020 (Dre’Mont Jones and McTelvin Agim, respectively), as well as trading a seventh-round pick to Tennessee for longtime star Jurrell Casey,” Spielberger explained. “Nevertheless, Shelby Harris had a standout 2020, whereas Casey missed the vast majority of the season to injury. Harris’ 83.5 pass-rushing grade ranked tied for sixth among all defensive interior players. Casey has an $11.681 million 2021 salary with nothing guaranteed, so he could become a cap casualty entering his age-32 season. A seventh-round pick wouldn’t make the Broncos think twice, and new general manager George Paton didn’t execute that trade, anyway.”

Franchise-tagging Harris over Simmons likely would be the more sensible path, as franchise-tagging Simmons for a second consecutive year could be taken as a sign of disrespect. It’s also much easier to picture Harris leaving Denver than Simmons doing so, which also makes Harris the better candidate for the tag.

Lastly, the projected cap number for Harris would be 13.74 million dollars, just $1.86 million more than the cap savings they would receive for cutting Jurrell Casey.