After starting the season filling in as a nose tackle, Shelby Harris found his groove in Week 5 when the Broncos figured out the defensive end was much better suited on the defensive line at ... well, the end.
And for the next 12 games, Harris put up his best season in the NFL so far and his first as a 16-game starter.
Harris said DE was his “natural position,” making it much easier to be aggressive and make big plays.
Which is exactly what he did - usually by batting down a QB’s pass, something he did nine times, best in the NFL.
The fifth-year player also ended his best season with eight tackles for a loss (second on the team), 49 tackles overall (sixth) and six sacks (third).
And as Harris faces free agency, the Broncos will have to decide how important those nine batted balls and six sacks will be to a defensive line facing potentially multiple exits as Harris, Purcell, Adam Gotsis and Derek Wolfe all have expiring contracts.
The problem is Harris played his way into possibly a bigger contract than he may be worth - except the cost of letting his experience go might be even more problematic.
What kind of contract could he get
It’s tough to project what the market may do - and ultimately it’s more about the market than it is about true worth - but it could be near the $10 million mark.
And that seems a bit pricey for a guy who was very solid, even at times remarkable, but not necessarily irreplaceable - especially with the need for pass-rush pressure up the middle.
Jeffrey Essary mentioned that a possible comparison would be the Bears’ Akiem Hicks, another 3-4 defensive end, whose base salary in 2020 and 2021 is just over $10 million.
Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald believes the number might be more like $5.5 million for Harris, which if true, should be a no-brainer for Elway to sign him in a heartbeat.
I have Simmons around 14, harris at 5.5, Wolfe I hadnt looked at as much but probably 8 or so https://t.co/GYwFMAszxu— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) January 23, 2020
Why the Broncos shouldn’t sign him
Harris’ market value will likely be bigger than his talent is worth - especially as a pass rusher - so the Broncos could probably find another DE who won’t be able to demand as much money but could command as much attention as a noteworthy player.
Harris also recently hired a new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, which likely means Harris is serious about getting paid the big bucks and Broncos may not be in the running for that kind of money.
Why the Broncos should re-sign him
Harris now brings both experience as a starter in the NFL as well as experience in a rather complicated defense under Vic Fangio.
The defensive end is versatile, and his athleticism for tackling plus awareness for batting down a pass (or nine) are pretty great attributes for a big guy on the line to have.
Plus, how often do you see 300-pound guys sprint down the entire field after ensuring a win with a batted ball? Broncos should probably keep him just because we all need more of that in our lives.
Harris is still relatively young, is “battle-tested” but not “battle-worn” after five years in the NFL but just one as a full-time starter - and he knows how to rise to the occasion in a big-game scenario.
In my opinion, his only true negative is that he hates turkey and won’t eat it on Thanksgiving.
What do you think, Broncos Country?
Should the Broncos sign Shelby Harris to a new deal?
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