Chris Harris Jr. is in the final year of his five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Denver Broncos.
He’s been an All-Pro, community contributor, and a Super Bowl champion. Most of all, he’s been underrated and underpaid.
The NFL can be fickle, and although Harris Jr. may have been setting the world ablaze at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium (three interceptions, four sacks, forced fumble, 290 total tackles as a Jayhawk), scouts failed to notice him, and he went undrafted.
Underrated, underpaid and undrafted.
Vic Fangio said he has not talked to Chris Harris since the start of the offseason program. Asked if he’s “disappointed” Harris isn’t here for the voluntary workouts, Fangio said “it’s just part of the NFL landscape.”— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) April 16, 2019
Harris Jr. has learned over the years he is going to have to fight for every bit of credit he is given in the NFL, similar to the battles he faces on the field against the likes of Antonio Brown or Tyreek Hill.
The big problem in Denver right now is that nobody seems willing to fight for him. Harris Jr. typically lets his play on the field speak for itself, but he’s in a pickle this year, after having to be placed on injured reserve following an injury to his fibula suffered in Week 13 against the Bengals last season.
Denver can’t offer much, after spending in free agency to nab the likes of Ja’Wuan James (now the highest-paid right tackle in the league at four years and up to $52 million) and Kareem Jackson (three years and up to $33 million).
But the Broncos have a little bit left and could seemingly make things work with Harris Jr. and the new rookie deals that will roll in. Broncos currently sit at $11,742,518 under the cap as of this post, and Harris Jr. knows they have little incentive to lock themselves in before the draft.
The Broncos’ aging elite corner has recently drawn comparisons to Champ Bailey and will likely be looking for a Josh Norman type of contract (five years and $75 million with $50 million guaranteed), although Norman was three years younger when he signed his deal.
Elway’s offer will likely be heavy on the guaranteed money, and Harris Jr.’s market sits at around $12 to $15 million per year. Keep in mind, the top-10 earning corners in the league all signed their deals before they were 28, and Champ’s extension was in February 2011 at four years, $43 million at age 32. The closest deal to what “Strap” is looking for might be Darrelle Revis in 2015. At 29 years old, Revis signed with the NY Jets for $39 million fully guaranteed.
Harris Jr.’s candle still burns bright in Denver, but the wick is not everlasting. The Hall of Fame discussion comes creeping in, as Champ is set to be inducted and Harris Jr. attempts to avoid the same wall Bailey hit.
There are arguments that Champ Bailey’s decline was not due to age, but more to the plantar fasciitis that pestered Peyton Manning and Ryan Clady at the end of their careers. Harris Jr. seems to be set up well to have another monster season on the outside and prove he’s not just a slot corner or an over-the-hill 30-year-old corner.
First-ballot will be hard to crack for Harris Jr. when projecting his Hall of Fame induction, but he deserves a gold jacket. A top five corner most of his career, if Chris Harris Jr. misses out on the Hall of Fame, it will be due to lack of recognition and empty stats, not lack of skill or worthiness. Talib gets a boost over Harris Jr. for the simple fact that he was a Patriot.
Harris Jr. has skipped optional workouts and hasn’t talked to head coach Vic Fangio in weeks. He also recently added a highlight video Instagram post that included emojis in the caption of a zipped mouth shut and a bag of money, likely indicating he’s putting his money where his mouth is and is ready to get paid.
Thought for the day: A historical precedent muddying up Chris Harris Jr. contract valuation is, all of the corners with a top 10 cap hit signed their deals at 28 years old or younger.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 18, 2019
Not a lot of recent precedence for a 30 year old corner signing a multi-year high $$ deal.
Let us know if you think Chris Harris Jr. is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and if you would offer anything more than a two-year deal to him as we head into the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jeffrey Essary, Taylor Kothe, Ian St. Clair, Joe Rowles, Scotty Payne and Joe Mahoney contributed discussion to help with this piece.
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