Before the Broncos can corner the market on cornerbacks in the draft and free agency, they would like to secure their top coverage defender. According to an NFL source, the Broncos and Chris Harris' representatives held productive talks last Friday, creating initial momentum for a contract extension for the four-time Pro Bowler.
The Broncos have made finding a corner to pair with Harris a priority. However, inking Harris longterm would provide a sense of comfort for the player and a cornerstone for the franchise as Denver shapes a no-nonsense culture under new coach Vic Fangio.
Harris, 29, has one year remaining on his five-year contract. He has said in the past that he would love to retire with the Broncos, where he has posted a career worthy of Ring of Fame honors, and has served as a staple in the community, winning the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2017. Denver7 previously reported that Harris' agent would meet with the Broncos at the combine. Asked Wednesday about a contract extension for Harris, general manager John Elway said, "That has not been thought about just yet." There was a caveat as the sides had not held discussions, and Elway did not rule it out.
With the sides in a good place and expressing mutual interest in an extension, the Broncos could circle back to Harris after free agency hits on March 13, leaving them a better idea of how their money will be allocated.
Along with All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller, Harris ranks as the Broncos' most valuable and decorated player. He has long drawn praise for his athleticism, versatility and swagger. He is considered elite in defending slot receivers, but also excels in outside coverage. Harris would prefer to stay outside, freeing him to make more plays. Fangio is known for varying his coverages -- he uses plenty of zone concepts whereas the Broncos leaned heavily on press man schemes for past three seasons -- and has talked about putting Harris in position to create more havoc.
Harris finished with 49 tackles and three interceptions last season before fracturing his right leg on Dec. 2 against the Bengals when he was accidentally leg whipped by a teammate. He recovered in a month, and played in the Pro Bowl following the season, posting an interception. Pro Football Focus graded Harris as the game's third-best corner last season behind the Patriots' Stephon Gilmore and the Chargers' Desmond King III. Harris represents one of four undrafted corrnerbacks to make at least four Pro Bowls with his original team. Only Cornell Green and Emmitt Thomas have more in NFL history.
The Broncos have made finding a cornerback a top priority in the draft and free agency. Free agent options include the Colts' Pierre Desir, the Packers' Bashaud Breeland, and the Texans' Kareem Jackson, among others. Denver could also select a cornerback in the first round where it holds the 10th overall pick. Washington's Byron Murphy, Georgia's DeAndre Baker and LSU's Greedy Williams represent the elite prospects in a deep class.