No one can avoid the Denver Broncos and Chris Harris Jr. contract situation, not even Von Miller. After the first day of OTAs on Monday, Miller was asked about just that.
“I feel for Chris,” Von Miller said. “I definitely feel for Chris. Sometimes when you first get here they tell you that you play and you play well, they’ll take care of you if you do all of the rights. If you do all of the right things in the community and you do all of the right things on the football field, they’ll take care of you. Chris has definitely done everything and then some. Whether it’s in the community with his foundation or on the football field—he’s always on the No. 1 receiver, he’s a top DB in the league. You want to take care of guys like that. But it’s not all simple. It’s not all as simple as it seems. I understand that. I’ve been through that before. Guys like Chris Harris who have done it all, really hit all of the check marks and all of the boxes, you want to take care of guys like. He deserves it 100 percent.”
Miller basically said it all in one response, but it’s more than just what he thinks about the situation - its also about the bonds of friendship. He and Harris came into the league together and have gone to battle for each other year in and year out. Together they have been the foundation of the franchise for a decade.
“Yeah, I talk to Chris all the time,” Miller said of his contact with Harris in the offseason. “That’s my brother, that’s my guy. This is our ninth year playing football together. You only play football with guys in college for four to five years, and you create bonds and connections that last a lifetime in just four to five years. I’ve been with Chris and his family for nine years now. That’s my brother. I’ve seen him grow. I was with him before he had his first daughter and now he has three of them. He’s like family to me. I definitely talk to him and we kind of go through the process together. It takes a while and you’ve just got to stay level headed. With a guy like Chris, you would think—like he’s done every single thing right on and off the football field. He’s checked every single box. Undrafted free agent, got a contract, played well through that first contract, played well through his second contract, and with guys like that, the message you want to send is like, ‘Hey, if you come out here and you perform, you will get what’s right for you.’ Chris definitely has to get what’s right for him. He’s done everything right.”
Miller is absolutely correct. Harris has done everything right and has been an exemplary teammate and representative of the franchise. Those factors should play a larger role in Elway’s decision-making here than mere statistics of the dreaded cornerback age wall.
There were reports that Harris’ agent and Elway got into a yelling match before the draft, which has made these negotiations pretty contentious. They spoke again within the last week, but the demand of $15 million a year remained the same. The Broncos are expected to make a counter offer. It won’t be for the full amount. The question that remains is whether Elway will take that demand personally or if Harris will take the counter offer personally.
The hope is that cooler heads will prevail, but even Miller noted that it’s hard to separate the emotions from the business side of things.
“I think both sides kind of take it personally,” Miller said. “Whenever you talk about money and contracts, I think both sides—it’s not just the player, I think it’s guys in the front office that take it personally too. They want to get a great deal done too and have a solid deal too. I think both sides kind of take it personally. If you really focus on business and it’s all about business, it’s easy to get it done. You look at what’s been done and you look at what you want to do going forward, and whether you want to pay the guy or you don’t want to pay the guy, you just go from there. I think all the time really the delay comes from both sides taking it personally. If you just focus on business it’ll be easy to get the deal done.”
Rational minds are rarely at work when millions of dollars are at stake. Harris took a hometown discount with his first big payday, but after nine years of Hall-of-Fame caliber pay, he is rightfully looking for one more show of appreciation from the team he has played his heart out for.
If, somehow, the Broncos and Harris could work out a short term deal that brings Harris’ pay more in line with his play on the field then that would be a good thing. Lock him down for the next two or three years with a fourth year option, then see where things go after that.
It would be sad to see Harris go before he is a couple of years away from actual retirement from the NFL. Aging veterans in today’s NFL often finish their careers on various teams, but for a player who is a lock for a teams Ring of Fame it would be nice to see a majority of his playing career for that team.
The situation the Denver Broncos and Harris Jr. find themselves in today is not all that unlike the situation Miller and the team faced in the months after winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
The biggest difference is that Miller was just reaching height of his playing career, while Harris is looking at the tail end of that height. However, the negotiations between the Broncos and Miller’s agent were anything but cozy that spring and summer of 2016. It was often contentious and even troublesome, but in the end the two sides found a way to make it happen.
“Knowing what I know now—I think everything happens for a reason, and I love being a Denver Bronco,” Miller said. “I think the direction and the vision that I had was to stay here. If you don’t want to be a Denver Bronco and you don’t want to be on the team where you’re at, there are a lot of different routes, a lot of different opinions and a lot of different things you can do. Me, I really wanted to be here and I really wanted to be a Denver Bronco for life. You kind of have to feather that out. You can’t just come up here and do this or do that. I want to be here forever, so I think the route that I took would be the same route.”
It really came down to Miller wanting to be in Denver and the Broncos wanting Von to be in Denver. Hopefully the same conclusion comes out of this dispute.