Chris Harris Jr. keeping an open mind ahead of free agency

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 29: Chris Harris Jr. #25 of the Denver Broncos walks on the field before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High on December 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 29: Chris Harris Jr. #25 of the Denver Broncos walks on the field before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High on December 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Denver Broncos free agent cornerback Chris Harris Jr. certainly doesn’t sound like he’s chomping at the bit to stay in Denver, but you never know.

Although not trading him at the 2019 deadline seemed to indicate there was at least a sliver of hope the Broncos could retain him, it really feels like star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is going to be leaving the team he’s been with since 2011 as an unrestricted free agent in just about a month.

Harris infamously shouted out the number of weeks he had left with the Broncos in frustration last season, but has also been outspoken about the fact that he would love to stay in Denver if they were willing to give him the contract he desires.

The Broncos were approached about a Chris Harris trade from the Detroit Lions last season, but the draft compensation couldn’t be agreed upon and it never materialized. The Broncos have rightly valued Harris very highly over the last two years when he’s been the subject of trade rumors, but now he’s prepared to leave freely and the best the Broncos could get in return is a third-round compensatory pick in 2021.

Harris was interviewed by Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic and voiced his thoughts on where things currently stand for he and the Broncos in free agency.

"“I think that’s the direction right now. I think everybody deserves to see what they’re worth, and I deserve it at this point. I think I worked my tail off for nine years, I gave the city every ounce of effort that I could give and, shoot, it’s time to see what everybody else thinks about me.”Chris Harris Jr. (from The Athletic)"

Harris continues to maintain that he will be back in Denver if the team wants it, but the team has not reached out to the agents of any of their own impending free agents at this point in time.

In the interview, which you must read as Harris’ comments are always insightful and honest, he admits that his clouded future with the team affected his play in 2019.

He also said that there were talks between his representation and the Broncos before the team decided to part ways with cap guru and contract negotiator Mike Sullivan, who has now been replaced by former player agent  Rich Hurtado. He hasn’t heard anything since that time, and neither has Shelby Harris.

The Broncos are expected to reach out to their own free agents at some point in the near future with free agency only one month away.

One contract offer can change everything, and like Harris said — if the Broncos want him back, he will be back. They can show that they want him back by offering him the money he’s looking for, otherwise he’s going to try to get it from someone else.

But Harris won’t count the Broncos out, either.

"“Oh, man, I like Drew (Lock). I like Drew a lot. That’s one thing definitely — I’m still looking at the Broncos. I don’t know why people already counted that out. I wouldn’t count it out at all. But Drew is nice, man. I don’t have any issue with Drew. I think he came out and played with a lot of confidence. He got our team energized and went out there and won games. Once we get (Bradley) Chubb back and we get pieces around what we got there and add some more on the offense, shoot, I still (think) we can still compete.”(more from Harris in Jhabvala piece)"

Although some outlets would lead you to believe Harris is dead set on leaving the Broncos, it really sounds more like he’s keeping an open mind and will absolutely stay in Denver if the Broncos make him an offer he is happy with.

He also has other desires in free agency outlined in the post by Nicki, such as being featured in the nickel again and having more of an all-encompassing role in the defense rather than just following around one receiver.

There could be football differences that drive the wedge between Harris and the Broncos, and he admitted there were communication issues last year, but that’s probably not rare when a new regime comes in.

The timing of Drew Lock’s emergence at the end of last season was critical for the Broncos. Lock showed signs of being a potential franchise player for this team at the most important position, and that is obviously important to players like Harris who is coming up on the final stretch of his  career.

The Broncos’ plans last year were foiled a bit by Bryce Callahan’s injury. Callahan was going to play the outside corner position with Harris sticking in the slot, but obviously we never got to see that happen. Instead of keeping Harris in the slot, the Broncos moved him to the outside corner position, where Harris has said he wanted to be in the past, but apparently he didn’t like it as much as he thought he would.

With Callahan expected back healthy in 2020, the Broncos could view Harris as the ideal player manning the slot for their defense. He certainly has a deep history with the team and the fact that John Elway ripped up the final year of his contract last year and gave him more money is indicative of the respect this team has for him.

Next. Broncos 2020 mock draft with huge trades. dark

Everyone should be keeping an open mind about Harris and the Broncos in free agency if for no other reason than Harris is. He wants to be wanted, but it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily guaranteed to leave, even if it feels like it at this point.