The Broncos got an enormous head start on a lengthy offseason to-do list by extending cornerback Chris Harris through the 2019 season. According to Mike Klis, the deal includes a $10M signing bonus and $24M in guarantees, including $18M over the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The contract reportedly has a total value of $42.5M, or $8.5M per season. That average annual value would rank Harris 12th among NFL cornerbacks, according to OTC.
As always, it's the fully guaranteed money that is the true measure of any NFL contract. We'll probably all learn the truth soon enough, but our guess is that Denver's full commitment is that $18M figure, with the remaining $6M an injury-only guarantee that would give the Broncos an out after the 2016 season.
$18M in full guarantees would be the fourth most among NFL corners, and more than what Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, and Vontae Davis received for their current deals, so it's easily conceivable that Denver's locked into a smaller number. But for Harris to sign before reaching free agency, common sense says the Broncos had to up the ante somewhere.
Although Harris suffered a partial ACL tear during last season's playoffs, he's never missed a regular season game in his four NFL seasons. Despite not having been invited to the NFL Combine, the Kansas alum made an immediate impact for Denver in 2011 as an undrafted rookie.
His role has grown each year, and with it, so has his recognition as one of the league's best and most versatile corners. Harris is the rare player with the physicality to play the slot and the athleticism to cover outside receivers.
This year, the 25-year-old Oklahoman is PFF's top graded corner, allowing just 53.2% of throws his way to be completed. Only 10 corners with at least 20 targets have allowed a lower completion rate. His 46.9 QB rating against trails only Indy's Davis (41.7) and Seattle's Sherman (46.8), and his 0.59 yards per cover snap trails only Baltimore's Jimmy Smith (14.2).
Harris celebrated the signing with a typically understated tweet:
Per Alex Marvez of SiriusXMNFL, Harris says the negotiation didn't truly rev up until John Elway got involved:
Here's what Elway had to say about the signing:
"Chris is a young, ascending player who has consistently performed at a high level during his first four years in the NFL,” Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said. “He joined the Broncos as a college free agent and has worked tirelessly to become one of the league’s best at his position.
“It’s a priority for us to develop and reward our own players as we continue assembling the best possible team. Whether it’s on the field or in the community, we are proud to have Chris representing the Broncos for many years to come."
Getting Harris locked up makes Denver's 2015 offseason appear far less daunting. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Terrance Knighton remain as key pending free agents, but it can be argued that Harris was the most indispensable of the four. It's been suggested that Demaryius could end up with Denver's franchise tag, but that's only a temporary solution.
Other starters headed for free agency include Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore, Wes Welker, Nate Irving, and Will Montgomery, along with key reserves Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme.