We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
The Denver Broncos missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season last year and are looking to build something new around second-year signal caller Drew Lock. This means Denver could have to part with some veterans as it reconstructs its roster. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. could be one of the assets let go in 2020, as the 30-year old is no longer the elite player he once was. The four-time Pro Bowl player recorded the fewest interceptions (1) he has since his rookie season and tied a career low for passes defended (6).
Harris is a player who can definitely make a secondary better. He can be a starter for a new team, but might not be worth his asking price. He signed a one-year, $12 million ahead of the 2019 season and could be looking for more than that in his next campaign. Only nine cornerbacks are set to make at least $13 million in 2020. Teams need to be sure about what they’re getting to spend that kind of money.
The Houston Texans had terrible luck with defensive backs last season. They cut starting cornerback Aaron Colvin for his dreadful performance against the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 season opener and kicked off their offseason by releasing Vernon Hargreaves with a year left on his contract. They gave up the fourth most passing yards (4,276) in the league and could use a proven veteran.
Do the Broncos want to keep him?
Denver might be open to having Harris back, but it appears like he’ll almost certainly explore his options. He told The Athletic that “everybody deserves to see what they’re worth,” earlier this month, and that seems to indicate that he wants to cash in on a major deal. Safet Justin Simmons seems like more of a priority at this point.
Denver fielded an average defense with Harris, and it’s hard to see that getting better without him. He’s one of five Broncos defensive backs set to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason. Harris was the highest-graded slot corner in the league in 2018 but had his worst season ever grading-wise in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. If he’s expected to lock down the opponent’s top option at receiver, expect his value to go down.
No teams has been vocal about the pursuit of Harris so far, but he is one of the better options in a deep class of defensive backs. Expect his name to pick up more traction when some of the younger pieces start falling into place. If he can’t get the pay raise he wants, he’s likely to return to Denver — where he spent his first nine NFL seasons.