Harris, who is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.5 million this season, is underpaid for a starting NFL cornerback. Of course, he has received more than half of the $18.6 million deal that he signed in September of 2004 over the past two years. He also received a $1 million bonus this spring. But compared to the $52 million deal that the Packers gave Charles Woodson in April, which includes about $10 million this season in salary and bonuses, Harris falls far short.
Harris made it loud and clear through the media while skipping the team's voluntary off-season practices that he wants a new deal. But he said after practice tonight that he's not about to sit out like Mike McKenzie and demand a trade. And he wasn't about to miss the first practice.
"The OTA's are voluntary. Training camp is mandatory," Harris said. "There's a $14,000 dollar a day fine (for sitting out), so unless you gonna pay that fine for me … Honestly, I love my job and when it's time to address that issue we will."
You've got to believe Harris when he says he loves his job. He certainly plays like he loves his job and has been Green Bay's top cornerback the past three seasons. And that's his point. Harris contends that the Packers have been putting him up against opponents' top receivers in bump-and-run coverage. So, he feels that he should be paid like the top cornerbacks in the league.
"If you play well you're rewarded," Harris said. "If not … I've faced a lot of good receivers in the past two years and (shrugs shoulders)."
The fact is, Harris signed a six-year extension in September of 2004 that included $7 million in bonus money. Maybe he was lured by the bonus money, usually paid upfront. Maybe he liked teh security of a long-term deal. Whatever the reason, a deal's a deal. Still, it's difficult not to side with Harris in this case. By NFL cornerback standards, Harris is among the elite but not getting paid like the elite cornerbacks around the league.
Harris, 30, is very confident in his ability without bragging, though, he slipped a little when asked why general manager Ted Thompson and company haven't discussed a new deal lately with his agent.
"I didn't miss any time," said Harris, who has started every game in the last three seasons with the Packers. "We play bump and run here. I firmly believe that, outside of one guy, I am the best bump-and-run corner in the game. That may sound a little cocky, huh? … There's not a lot of guys that play bump and run 16 games, you know what I mean. For the past three years, that's pretty much what I've been doing."
Harris addressed waves of reporters at his locker Friday, but says he won't talk about a new contract until "it's time to talk about it." When that will be, who knows? Maybe later this season, or possibly next off-season.
In any case, the Packers know they have a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback on the roster, though, he has yet to be named to the Pro Bowl. In time, the Packers will probably reward him, especially if their younger cornerbacks do not live up to expectations.
Time will tell. In the meantime, look for Harris to play like he's in the final year of his contract, which would ultimately force the Packers to either restructure his current deal or possibly deal him to another team.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.