DENVER -- From undrafted to undaunted, Chris Harris Jr. evolved into one of the best cornerbacks in Broncos history over the past nine years. He founded the No Fly Zone, He helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. In an ideal world, he would have retired in Denver. But factors conspired to pave his exit, namely his age.
After weighing several options, including late pushes from the Saints and Eagles, the former Kansas star agreed to a two-year, $20-million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, per a source. I asked Harris, who liked the fit with the Chargers, how much was guaranteed. "It's pretty much both years. That's why I took it."
"Broncos Country. THANK YOU! It's been an amazing 9 years. I want to thank the entire Denver Broncos organization for believing in a young, undrafted kid from Oklahoma. Thank you to my teammates, coaches and trainers for helping to make me a Super Bowl champion and 4X Pro Bowler. Thank you to the beautiful city of Denver for being home to my family and baby girls. BIG thank you to all the Broncos' fans!! From Super Bowls to Super Lows, you always showed up. ... It's hard to be leaving a city where we have created so many incredible memories, but I am excited for a new beginning," Harris wrote on Instagram.
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) March 18, 2020
Harris, who turns 31 in June, is only four undrafted cornerbacks in NFL history to make four Pro Bowls with his original team. He leaves as one of only 12 Broncos with at least 20 career interceptions. Any chance of Harris returning to Denver evaporated when the team acquired A.J. Bouye from Jacksonville for a second-round pick. Bouye is two years younger than Harrris. The two trained together in offseasons, and Harris told Denver7 he was happy for Bouye, who will wearn No. 21 in Denver.
"I wish A.J. the best," Harris said. "He is one of my kids I brought up."
While many deals remain in limbo because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus, Bouye passed a physical last week. He was a Pro Bowler in 2017, but has struggled with inconsistency the last two seasons. He should benefit from playing more zone coverage in coach Vic Fangio's defense.
"He's a great fit in Vic's scheme with his instincts, ball skills, toughness and ability to play in a defense that mixes coverages," general manager John Elway said when announcing the deal. "He's a complete cornerback who gives us what we need in pass coverage and against the run."
By his own admission, Harris did not meet expectations last season. It was a challenging year as Harris missed much of the offseason practices angling for a new contract. He ultimately received a $3 million raise for 2019. Without a steady corner alongside him, Harris followed the top receiver more than he had in the past where he excelled at the slot. The Broncos nearly traded him to the Lions at the October deadline. He experienced tough games against the Chiefs and Bills, but Pro Football Focus ranked him one of the league's top corners in eight of his first nine seasons.
Part of Harris' desire was to join an accomplished secondary. He finds that with the Chargers, who boast decorated players Casey Heyward and Derwin James. Harris has played some of his best games against the Chargers. He loved facing former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has joined the Colts. Los Angeles believes it will contend with better quarterback play, namely because of Rivers' propensity for turnovers. Tyrod Taylor is set to take over, though the Chargers could draft a quarterback as well.