The remarkable journey of Denver Broncos cornerback, Chris Harris, Jr, has reached another storybook milestone. He has agreed to a contract extension, in principle, that will pay him $42.5M, over the next 5 years.
Harris went undrafted out of the University of Kansas in 2011. When the Broncos signed him to come compete in training camp, they paid him a $10,000 signing bonus. With his new contract, he will receive a whopping $10M signing bonus and will make $18M over the next two years.
Because of Aqib Talib, many perceive Harris as the Broncos No. 2 cornerback. But that distinction is inaccurate. Harris leads all cornerbacks via ProFootballFocus, with a +22.3 cumulative grade. He's intercepted 3 passes this season and has notched 42 solo tackles and a sack.
This season, Harris has been targeted in coverage 77 times, relinquishing only 41 receptions, zero of which have been for touchdowns. When quarterbacks target him, they have earned a paltry 46.9 collective rating (QBR). Passes completed into Harris' coverage only net the opposition an average of 7.5 yards.
This prolific production is not the work of a No. 2 cornerback. It's the production of an All-Pro. John Elway was smart in working to get a deal inked in-season, preventing Harris from hitting the open market in only a few short months.
In comparison, Talib has been targeted 79 times, allowing 47 receptions. However, when QBs target him, they have earned a collective QBR of 85.5. Talib has given up 4 TDs and allows an average of 11.1 yards per reception. He has managed to pick off two passes.
Talib's numbers are not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination. But Harris is out-playing his former college teammate in every way. Just this past March, the Broncos signed Talib to a 6-year $57M contract, which also will pay him $18M in his first two years with the team.
The Broncos now have two upper-echelon cornerbacks they can build around on defense. Coupled with the elite pass rushing duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, the team's defensive personnel compliments each other perfectly.
Now, the Broncos front office will be able to focus on continued negotiations with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. The team hopes to have both players back in 2015, but Julius' health issues have muddied the water in how the Broncos, and the league, perceive his market value.
As for Harris, his paycheck now reflects his performance on the field. He has gone from an undrafted rookie free agent, to making the Broncos final 53-man roster in 2011, to partially tearing his ACL last January, and now, he finally gets to reap the fruits of all his labors and sacrifices.