Denver Broncos: Grade for re-signing DL Shelby Harris

The Denver Broncos agreed to bring back free agent defensive lineman Shelby Harris on a one-year contract. We grade the latest move by John Elway.

The Denver Broncos seemed to be in the market for at least one more free agent defensive lineman with both Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris departed via free agency.

After watching the defensive linemen get plucked off the market one-by-one, the Broncos’ options have been limited lately, especially if you thought neither Wolfe nor Harris was likely to return to the team for the 2020 season, which pretty much everyone did.

That was until late Friday night, when Harris and the Broncos agreed on a one-year contract for the defensive lineman to return to Denver in 2020.

The move was first reported by Brandon Krisztal:

Brandon’s report sent Broncos Country into a mini-frenzy.

Shelby Harris coming back? Shelby Harris coming back for a max value of $3.25 million?!

Let’s get to grading this move.

The value

This still feels like a bit of a dream, but it’s reality. Shelby Harris is back to the Broncos on a one-year deal worth only $2 million in guaranteed money. Seriously?

That’s insane, and even after trading just a seventh-round pick for five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, getting Harris for a contract worth less than a restricted free agent tender is John Elway’s greatest trick yet.

Harris’ valuation based on production over the last 2-3 seasons was well into the eight figure annual salary. It seemed he would have his pick between teams like the Indianapolis Colts, maybe the Arizona Cardinals, and perhaps even a team like the Las Vegas Raiders or any of the Florida teams (because those teams are always heavy in the free agent market).

For the Broncos to get Harris at basically the same price they got him last offseason with less guaranteed money doesn’t really make much sense. Had the Broncos re-signed him to a contract worth anything under $9 million per year, it would have been seen as a team-friendly deal.

The player

Harris came to the Broncos basically on his last shot in the NFL.

A former seventh-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, Harris had bounced around between Oakland, Dallas, and New York with the Jets before landing with Denver. He was cut a total of six times before ultimately landing in Denver with a reserve/futures contract in 2017.

A rare success story from that form of transaction, Harris cracked the 2017 roster and rotation for the Broncos, playing over 50 percent of the snaps that season. His usage dipped in 2018, but he played more snaps in 16 starts for Vic Fangio in 2019 than he ever has in his NFL career.

With over 600 snaps and a 60 percent usage (in addition to his tremendous work on special teams), Harris enjoyed the best season of his NFL career.

He racked up 49 total tackles, six sacks, eight tackles for loss, and a league high 10 batted passes at the line of scrimmage.

Harris has blocked kicks, batted down passes, been effective against the run, and made plays as a pass rusher. He’s improved consistently over his three seasons with the Broncos and now he gets a chance to build off of that progress.

Grade: A+

Is there a grade to give above an A+? This is an outstanding move for the Broncos. It’s an unfortunate situation for Harris, whose market dried up a bit after the Colts traded for 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

Everyone in Broncos Country is thrilled to have Harris back, especially after his comments leading into free agency made it sound like he had moved on. Harris hired Drew Rosenhaus’ agency to represent him in free agency, and it seems like he ultimately just had to take the best offer on the table on a short deal.

Now with a top four on the defensive line of Harris, Jurrell Casey, Mike Purcell, and Dre’Mont Jones, the Broncos are set up exceptionally well going into the 2020 NFL Draft.

This move is huge for the Broncos.