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3 & Out: Over the Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald talks Chris Harris Jr. contract details

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Why would the Broncos give Harris a pay raise this year instead of a long-term deal?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals
Why would the Broncos give Harris a pay raise this year instead of a long term deal?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This time a month ago, the Broncos and Chris Harris Jr. contract impasse came into the open with the words “Pay me or trade me,” and the stalemate shows no real sign of ending anytime soon.

Without actual news, speculation has run pretty rampant. Some corners of Broncos Country want John Elway to play chicken - after all, the four-time Pro Bowler will be 30 in June and has $8 million-plus reasons to show up to camp when it becomes mandatory.

Still, I thought it best to sit down with Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap to give you his thoughts.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10:
I’m sure you’ve seen the contract stalemate between the Broncos and Chris Harris Jr. I’m curious what you believe Harris’ market value is at the present moment?

Fitzgerald: I think Harris would probably fall in the $12.5 to $13.5 million per year range. Talent-wise I think you can make an argument that he should bypass most of the $14 million contracts, but he will be 30 this season, and I think teams are generally a little more cautious with this position at that age because the fall-off can be pretty severe, and it often comes quickly. His value probably would have been at its peak if he held out last season and demanded a trade if the Broncos were not willing to extend him.

2nd and 7:

There were reports late last week that suggested Harris and the Broncos may work out what amounts to a one-year pay bump in 2019, with Harris free to pursue unrestricted free agency in 2020. My first question about this is how the Broncos could make the cap work if that’s what happens? After the Bryce Callahan signing, things looked pretty tight.

Fitzgerald: The Broncos should have enough cap space to make a pay raise work as long as its not more than $4 million. Now if it is again an incentive package, then the cap is of little concern as most incentives would not count on the cap this season. Last time around, his incentive package consisted of some very high thresholds to meet, so even on a big incentive package, I’d imagine the team would lose no more than $1 million in cap space.

That said, it’s hard for me to see the benefit for either side to do such a move. Harris should be focused on a long-term deal, and since he saw so few of his incentives in his last contract, he should not compromise unless it’s a pure raise.

For the Broncos why would you just pay Harris more money for one year only to allow him to become a free agent next season? I can’t see the benefit to Denver for doing that, especially since Harris has little leverage since sitting out would cause his contract to roll over to 2020.

This is a situation that the Broncos should have anticipated after free agency. To sign Bryce Callahan to a $7 million contract and more so Kareem Jackson to an $11 million contract has to upset the incumbent player who has been one of the most underpaid players in the NFL the minute the ink was dry on his last contract - especially when you factor in him looking for a raise. So I have to assume they have had a plan in mind for Harris, and if they did not, it’s poor preparation by the Broncos.

Fitzgerald called CHJ’s 2016 contract back then a “heist” by the Broncos:

By the time Harris has signed this contract, the cornerback market had already taken a turn for the better after a two or three year pullback, yet somehow the Broncos got Harris to work from the old contract landscape rather than trying to push forward the way other players would have. Just a few weeks later when free agency began, Byron Maxwell, a lesser player, signed a massive contract for over $11 million a season. This past year Janoris Jenkins signed for over $12.5 million a year. This was a heist by Denver’s front office.

3rd and 4: My other question regarding a 1-year bump is what a 31-year-old Harris should expect in free agency in 2020. What do you think he could reasonably garner?

Fitzgerald: I don’t think his value will change much from where it is now. I still think he can command a $12-$13 million contract in free agency but I would expect it to be, like Jackson’s, a three-year contract. The age factor should prevent a long term deal so while the annual value of the contract will be high the guarantee package will likely not be as impressive as the ones received by the players earning a similar salary on a five year contract.

Poll

What do you want Elway to do Broncos Country?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Sign Harris to a long term deal. He should retire in orange and blue.
    (1236 votes)
  • 12%
    Make him play out his current contract.
    (243 votes)
  • 25%
    Give him a 2019 raise, look at an extension in 2020.
    (494 votes)
1973 votes total Vote Now