Josh Norman A Top-5 Cornerback? Chris Harris, Jr. Doesn't Think So

What's holding Josh Norman back from being a top-5 cornerback? Chris Harris, Jr. has the answer.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Wednesday, day three of the Denver Broncos initial Phase 1 offseason training program, Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. took to the podium for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50. 

Harris talked about his time off, the Broncos' 2016 schedule and more. The questions quickly turned toward LaDainian Tomlinson's recent public assertion that there are no true 'shutdown corners' in the NFL today.  

“He’s saying there are no shutdown corners in the league," Harris said. "We go off touchdowns. I guarantee if they track down the touchdowns that we gave up the last five years, I’d be giving up the least. That was my argument with him.”

Harris is talking about his 36-game streak of not allowing a single touchdown in his coverage. It came to an end last season in Pittsburgh, when All-World receiver Antonio Brown scored two with Harris in tow. 

Nevertheless, even the best have down days. And there's something to be said for Harris' argument. Lot's of guys get mentioned in the top-5 corner conversation but they all give up more touchdowns per season than Harris has since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2011. Even still, what would Harris' top-5 look like? 

“How do I rank them? I would say ‘Sherm’ (Seahawks CB Richard Sherman), [Jets CB Darrelle] Revis, ‘Pat-P’ (Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson) had a great year last year, me and [CB Aqib] Talib.”

Omitted from Harris' list is one guy who had an outstanding 2015 season — Josh Norman, formerly of the Carolina Panthers. Isn't he a top-5 corner? 

“Nah,” Harris said. “You’ve got to do it more than one year. We’ve been guys that have done it five years. I don’t know how many years for Revis—nine or 10 this year. Talib has done it eight years. It’s about being good for a long time, not just one year."

Carolina's front office would agree, it seems. In a stunningly serendipitous move, the Panthers, on Wednesday, rescinded their exclusive rights franchise tag tender they placed on Norman. He's now an unrestricted free agent. 

Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

There's little doubting Norman's ability as a corner. He proved to be one of the league's best in 2015. But consistency and longevity should play a role when factoring the NFL's top players at a given position. 

Norman had a break-out 2015 campaign. Wherever he ends up, if can continue to lock down his side of the field in the coming years, he could be among the top-5 at his position, according to his peers. 

With the unprecedented season he had in 2014 and backing that up with another Pro Bowl nod in 2015, Harris is one of the most qualified persons on Earth to speak on such matters. 

Like his fellow Pro Bowl teammate, Aqib Talib, Harris still has a chip on his shoulder. As a former UDFA, that will probably never change. But he's confident the Broncos defense will continue their aggression as the league's top unit, despite some of the players they lost to free agency.

“Just hearing everybody saying, ‘We lost [Jaguars DE] Malik [Jackson], [Bears LB] Danny [Trevathan], we won’t be the same," Harris said. "'We won’t be good again.’ That’s our mindset. I think we return nine starters. You can really count [CB Bradley] Roby as a starter. We’re really bringing back 10 guys that played a lot. [S Shiloh] Keo even played a lot for us. We have a lot of guys back. We know it’s always going to be hard to replace Malik and a guy like Danny Trevathan, who has always had his hair on fire everywhere. [ILB] Todd Davis, I think he’ll do a great job of being able to come in and fill that role. No telling with what we’ll do with the draft with the D-Linemen. I still think we have the best D-Line in the league.”

As for a leadership void left in the departure of Peyton Manning, Harris plans to continue his role as a leader and keep his locker room competitive. 

“I’m definitely going to keep that competitive edge on the team," Harris said. "If I’ve got to holler at the receivers, talk mess to [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] or ‘D.T.’ (Demaryius Thomas) or whoever, try to spark up some competitive nature in our locker room—I think that was huge for us last year. The receivers’ lockers were right by each other, so every day we’re chirping at each other, talking mess. We have to have that same type of competitive nature so that when we get to these big games it’s nothing. We’ve already competed hard versus each other. [When] we get to these big games, it’s just like practice.”

The Broncos enter 2016 as World Champions, with a title to defend. It's been more than a decade since a team repeated as Super Bowl champion. There are many reasons why. 

“It’s so hard to win a Super Bowl," Harris said. "It takes so much work. It’s just about guys having that same type of work ethic that you had the year before. That’s something I kind of wanted to do. I wanted to make sure I had that same work ethic that I had the past years so it doesn’t change. As long as we continue to put the same work in, we don’t have to worry about what New England is doing, what Carolina is doing or what any of those teams are doing. We just have to worry about ourselves and continue to improve our team.”

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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