When the Denver Broncos and Chris Harris Jr. finally came to an agreement on a contract adjustment for 2019, the team was finally made whole again. Harris is easily the second best player on the roster behind Von Miller, so getting him back into the fold was critical for new head coach Vic Fangio and his defensive staff.
During his first day back, Harris predictably was brought to the media after practice to talk about his new deal and first day of practice. The first thing that struck him was how Fangio’s defensive is doing a lot of what Harris has been calling for all last year, which Von Miller was quick to point out to him.
“He was really explaining to me about the defensive scheme and everything that we’re doing,” Harris said of his conversations with Von. “How this is everything that I’ve been kind of crying about doing. I like it. I love it so far. I think it’s going to fit us well.”
While it is a bit concerning that the previous coaching staff wasn’t too interested in listening to a veteran with the laurels that Harris has, that is in the past. The present tells us that this coaching staff on defense understands that you have to evolve to stay competitive in this league. That evolution was something Harris mentioned previously, so it is exciting to realize this is what is happening now.
Harris sees his role being the guy who takes the pressure off the backend to help open things up for everyone else.
“We have guys that are very flexible, that can play everywhere,” Harris said. “Guys that are smart. I want to take the pressure off of them. If they need me to put me on ‘AB’ (Raiders WR Antonio Brown) Week 1, I’m ready for that. Whoever is the top receiver, I’m ready for this. Any pressure to take off those guys, let those guys play free, let me take on the big challenge every week. I’m ready for that.”
His focus to cover the other teams top receiver isn’t exactly how it will play out. Harris already sees how this scheme will open things up. He won’t just be man-to-man every down. There will be room to read and react, which he thinks will lead to an increase in interceptions for him and others in the secondary.
“The way this defense is set up it’s going to be confusing,” Harris said. “We’re going to be able to disguise, be able to make quarterbacks think instead of just coming out there like, Y’all know we’re in man. Now I don’t have to play a guy man-to-man and cover him all over the field like I’ve had to in the past. Now I can read. I think my picks will go way up now because I’m going to have the chance to read the quarterback more. I’ll get to show you a different skill set that I have.”
If Harris has already bought into the Fangio system after one day, then we should all be excited about what is going on in Dove Valley. This defense already has most of the pieces in place to be great. It’s not like what Fangio had with the Chicago Bears when he first arrived there five seasons ago.
There could even be a situation where this defense has an outstanding season and the team ends up making some waves in the regular season and playoffs that could lead to Harris coming back in 2020 to retire a Bronco with his last big contract.
“I don’t know,” Harris said of 2019 being his last year in Denver. “Like I said, I’m taking it day by day. I’ve always said I wanted to retire here, and that’s always been my mentality here. So, if I have to go show them 16 games that I have to retire here, I’m going to do it.”
While it is highly likely that John Elway will move on from Harris in 2020 regardless, there is always hope for fans. Harris is a lock for the Broncos Ring of Fame one day, so if he has a big year and the Broncos have a big year, why wouldn’t Elway try to resign him?
I know, stupid question. Elway can be frustrating in that regard.
In any case, Harris intends to give Denver a chance to resign him in free agency next offseason. Obviously, he’ll be looking to get paid and that means Elway would have to come at him with the best offer.
“I’m definitely giving them a shot,” Harris said of free agency. “Definitely, I’m not ever going to, like I told ya’ll earlier, the situation can always be salvaged and worked out. I’m going to go do my thing. Then at the end of the year, whatever, whenever, I’m definitely giving them a fair chance, for sure.”
In an ideal world, that would work out like a fairy tale. For now, however, it’s just nice to have Harris back on the field. He and Von have been the foundation this defense has been built around for a decade and now we’ll have them together again for at least one more year.