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Understanding Chris Harris Jr’s Contract “Dispute”

The media is making a big deal out of Chris Harris Jr missing the Denver Broncos current voluntary offseason activities. Let’s get a No Bull look at both sides of the issue and grow our understanding of why this is happening

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I get it.

There’s nothing really big going on right now. The draft isn’t quite yet here. The team isn’t really doing anything important. We need something to talk about.

But I honestly roll my eyes when I see twitter notifications about subjects like this or hear some hack on the radio start hyping up a situation like this on the radio.

This is all part of the NFL process people. It is normal. It is a thing that is going to happen every year somewhere. We just so happen to have the situation in our backyard.

I’m not going to spend much time on why there are contract disputes (protip: it is because the owners hold all the power in the current structure of the NFL and only the super talented players can do something like this to demand more money). But I do want to take some time to lay out both the Broncos side of this equation and Chris Harris Jr.’s possible reasons for this action.

The Broncos are handling business the Bronco Way

Nothing about this situation from the Broncos side of the equation should surprise anyone. Their operations are headed up by John Elway. John Elway has always been a shrewd business man who wants to maximize his profit of whatever merchandise he’s in charge of.

He handles drafts, trades, and contract extensions with the same mindset. That mindset in my opinion is as follows:

Get as much as you can out of players while paying them as little as possible without making the franchise have a bad look.

It is that last caveat where we see “interesting” situations develop. Think back too the post Super Bowl contract negotiation with Brock Osweiler. Think back to when we needed to sign Von Miller and had all the different messages on twitter from and around what we all knew was going to end up being the Broncos signing Von to a very rich deal.

And that’s where we are at today. From the Bronco’s point of view, they want to take little long term risk and have CHJ on the field this year as the team begins building a real actual NFL football team (unlike most of what we’ve seen since Super Bowl 50).

Why would they even risk this kind of dispute?

  1. If the team still sucks, we may face a serious rebuild in the short term which wouldn’t be a situation that we’d want a high payed aging corner to be a part of.
  2. He’s still getting paid a very good amount of money as it stands today.
  3. (Here’s the big key) If they don’t set a precedent of extending performers with one year left on their contracts, no other players will reasonably expect that kind of treatment.

What we as fans tend to miss in these kind of situations is that our beloved Denver Bronco team is a business. It has to be ran as a business. They have very specific guidelines and standards they operate by and good teams get absolutely everything they can from their players while giving up as little money as possible.

We’d like to think our team is different or special, but it isn’t in this regard. The Broncos as an organization do this part of the business very well in my opinion. They aren’t nearly as ugly of a big bad wolf as most radio hacks would paint them. They also aren’t nearly the saints that their twitter mouthpieces would paint them to be either.

Chris Harris likely feels like he deserves more long-term security

I keep thinking back to the Von Miller extension. I walked through that like many in Broncos Country with a lot of shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and a whole lot of telling people asking about it in my life, “This is no big deal...they are just dancing the dance until the dotted line gets signed.”

What Chris is doing here is letting the team know how he feels about his situation and exercising one of the few tools he has as a player at his disposal in order to get what he feels is fair treatment from his employer.

I’m not going to lay out stats and details on Chris. He’s an amazing talent. We’re far past the point where I’m going to roll up my sleeves and give anyone the time of day who thinks he’s 2nd rate. Let’s just work with the idea that he’s one of the 5 best the NFL has to offer at cornerback and go from there (though I’d argue he’s the best if you want to arm wrestle me over it).

Why would Chris Harris Jr risk this kind of dispute?

  1. He’s worth more. He knows it. The Broncos know it. So does any of us out here that pays attention to the game with any serious level of intelligence.
  2. He’s a leader as a player and the players already get a crap deal. The NFLPA got jobbed in the last negotiations in almost every way. If the players are ever going to get a more fair shake, leaders like Chris need to hold teams accountable when they have leverage like this.
  3. He has nothing to prove and can afford to push this situation into ugly territory. Chris has already made a bunch of money. If the team wants to play hard ball to save some bucks, he can choose to never take another snap and be okay. It won’t come to that but the truth is that’s the kind of case he has and why his move is shrewd and appropriate in my opinion.
  4. It allows him a platform with the front office for him to send a message. Think about this. The team he signed his first extension with has had him for the prime of his career. They climbed to the Promised Land with him. Since then, the team has been a total joke. Guys don’t want to play for a junky team. Team friendly deals are for guys on really good teams who have a chance to win and win often.

So who’s right and who’s wrong?

It seems far more complicated than it needs to be for us as fans. CHJ is an all-pro cornerback who’s baseline skill and technique are arguably the best the NFL has to offer. I think the deal he made with the Broncos a few years back was a good deal for both sides. CHJ got paid well and the Broncos saved a little (not a lot). But honestly the guy is a cornerstone type player for the franchise along with Von Miller. He needs a raise and deserves it.

I think he’s right for asking.

I think the team is right enough for not just throwing dollars out their window. I honestly don’t mind the business practice if they choose to handle it this way of letting the players make the first move.

Right now I just don’t have some big problem with CHJ relaxing. I don’t have a problem with the Broncos waiting either if they chose to. At the end of the day, I’m about 95% sure that the team will open the season with Chris Harris Jr locking it down at corner just like he has been for us his whole career.