After John Elway told the media he wouldn’t be working on a deal for Chris Harris Jr. until after the draft this weekend, Harris gave Elway and the Broncos an ultimatum.
Broncos’ Pro-Bowl slot CB Chris Harris has requested a new contract or a trade, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 24, 2019
While the fan in me hopes terms can be reached between the two, the fanalyst thinks that is highly unlikely. Christopher Hart and I joined Adam Malnati and Ian St. Clair on the MHR Radio Podcast (iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher) to digest the Harris news and try to unearth what it all means.
So where could the Broncos trade Harris? Ideally it isn’t an AFC team. Given Strap is over 30, it will probably have to be a team that is looking to contend in 2019, or a GM who is hoping to stay off the firing line.
My short list:
The Cardinals currently have Patrick Peterson locking down one spot in their secondary (for how long is anyone’s guess) but just went out to grab Robert Alford this offseason. That’s not great. Then when you stop to consider that Vance Joseph runs the kind of man-heavy scheme that would make the most of Harris’ skillset and has familiarity with him, it makes a lot of sense.
What complicates things is the rest of the roster. Unless Kyler Murray proves he’s a phenom like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck were in their first years at the helm, they’re not close to contending. On the surface it doesn’t seem like General Manager Steve Keim would be interested in trading for an older corner. At least until you consider the fact that Arizona has signed Terrell Suggs (37 in October), Alford (31 in November), and traded for Marcus Gilbert (31) in 2019. Peterson is no spring chicken, and Larry Fitzgerald has one foot in retirement. Combine that with Steve Keim’s shaky job security, and a trade starts to make sense.
There’s some serious cap math that would need to smooth out before this deal could come together. Since signing Donovan Smith to a hefty extension, the Bucs are sitting at less than $2 million under the cap right now. One way things could sort themselves out in a hurry is if Jason Licht moves on from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, which would free $13 million in space.
If that were to happen, a Harris would give Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles a lockdown corner for the new defense sorely in need of one. Harris’ age wouldn’t be as big a problem on a team that is hoping to contend right now, future be damned.
The Chicago Bears
Another contender that wants to win now and lacks the draft capital to drastically improve the roster is the Chicago Bears. With Fangio coming to Denver, Matt Nagy brought in Chuck Pagano to run the defense. That change will bring more man-to-man responsibilities and blitzing. For Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara it won’t be a drastic change as a lot of the coverage shells Fangio uses essentially places the boundary corners in man, but it will be a shift for the new nickel corner trying to replace Bryce Callahan.
If Elway and the Broncos are willing to take a 2020 pick they could find a willing trade partner.
The Detroit Lions
As I’ve mentioned before, Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are facing a really hot seat. If the Lions disappoint out the gate it wouldn’t surprise me to see both on the firing line before 2019 ends. Harris could push Jalen Tabor out of the starting lineup and become a standout running mate to Darius Slay. One thing that could cool this possibility is Detroit’s new corner Justin Coleman. He’s locked in as the nickel and has a bit of an overlapping skillset with Strap.
This is another team that could surprise you. Throughout the Ted Thompson era Titletown was more conservative than your great uncle Leonard. Then you look at their recent splash in free agency under General Manager Brian Gutekunst. It makes sense: they have a Super Bowl window that slams shut when Aaron Rodgers (35) hangs’em up.
New coach Matt LaFleur kept former defensive boss Mike Pettine, who runs the kind of scheme that could maximize Harris’ talents. Green Bay seemingly has all the corners it could need with their recent draft investment in Joe Jackson, Jaire Alexander, and Kevin King. But Jackson was just “OK” last year, and Harris is a Pro Bowl talent.