The Denver Broncos could lose one of their top defensive linemen, Shelby Harris, in a few weeks. He talked about his desires leading up to free agency.
It’s impossible to ignore the reality that the Denver Broncos could be losing a number of players who have meant a lot to the team in recent years, even with all of the losing that has gone on.
One of those players who has really endeared himself to Broncos Country is defensive lineman Shelby Harris. Harris joined the Broncos as an afterthought of many other teams around the league, but made the most of his opportunity in the Mile High City and has put together an impressive resume.
That resume includes a 2019 season in which he set a career high with six sacks and 10 batted passes. Actually, the NFL only recognizes nine of those batted passes, but the 10th one sealed a victory on an extra point against the Raiders, so I think it’s worth noting.
Harris started off the season as the Broncos’ nose tackle and wasn’t really a fit there, but when he moved to the defensive end position on a full-time basis, he thrived and the Broncos’ defense turned things around after four underwhelming games.
Harris is about to hit free agency and his market is really tough to gauge. He has proven himself worthy of an eight-figure contract, but will the Broncos be the team to give that to him?
I’m not so sure.
I took a deep look into what the Broncos’ strategy could be for defensive linemen in free agency, and you can read that in full here.
As fun as it has been to watch Harris develop from a reserve/futures contract player to an eight-figure contract guy. That doesn’t just happen in the NFL. It’s a testament to Harris’ hard work and diligence and the Broncos’ ability to identify and develop talent.
Unfortunately, this might be the end of the road for Harris and the Broncos. He shared his perspective leading up to free agency with 850 KOA Radio:
You have to appreciate the candor in this quote from Harris, and the conclusions he’s drawn are spot on.
At the age of 28, Harris is not going to get a second ‘big’ contract after this one. Because he was somewhat of a late bloomer, his first big contract will almost certainly be his last chance to take the most money possible.
Harris could easily command north of $10 million per season on the open market and for that kind of cash, my personal thought is that the Broncos should at the very least consider the alternatives.
It’s not that Harris isn’t good enough to be worth that kind of cash, but the Broncos could identify some players on the free agent market who could provide them upgrades in Fangio’s system, or perhaps offer a different skillset than Harris.
This is a deep class of free agent defensive linemen, so we’ll see what ultimately winds up happening with Harris’ value. What if the Broncos could get him for $7 million per year or something? That would really be outstanding, but it would almost have to be that kind of figure with the number of needs this team has and how they could potentially build the rest of the roster.
Harris saying that he hopes the Broncos can make a market value offer seems to indicate he hasn’t exactly gotten the impression that they will.
Again, it’s not necessarily about Harris not being good enough, it’s about considering the alternatives in terms of his production compared to the rest of his peers in free agency and their fit in Denver’s defense under Vic Fangio as well as the alternatives in the NFL Draft.
Harris deserves the opportunity to go and get the biggest possible contract he can in March, and if that’s not in Denver, no one should be mad about it because there are alternatives out there that can make this a win-win situation for both Harris and the Broncos.