Everybody wins with Harris' new contract

The deal, which includes no guaranteed money, is good PR for the Packers.

Al Harris' new contract shows that where there's a will, there's a way.

At 32 — he'll turn 33 on Dec. 7 — Harris is getting close to the age in which an elite cornerback's skills can fall dramatically and without much warning.

That's the future, though, and it's the great unknown. What is known is that Harris is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and he wasn't being paid as such.

Harris made a bit of a stink last offseason about his displeasure with his contract, which runs through 2009. Unlike Javon Walker, though, Harris' comments were infrequent and weren't much more than lip service. While he skipped voluntary workouts, he was in Green Bay when he needed to be, and he put together another tremendous season.

The dilemma for general manager Ted Thompson was to give Harris a well-earned raise while protecting the team should Harris' skills quickly erode.

Mission accomplished. Most of the $4 million in new money will be paid in weekly bonuses on top of the $2.7 million he's owed for 2007, $2.85 million for 2008 and $3 million for 2009. As long as Harris is on the team, he'll get the extra dollars — about 75,000 of them a week. If Harris' play slips and the Packers decide to sever ties, then they're completely off the hook, both in real dollars and salary-cap dollars.

Beyond the dollars and cents, this deal made sense in the big picture.

For one, keeping Harris happy is a priority, especially considering Woodson received more than $10 million in up-front money to join the Packers last season, only to play second-fiddle to Harris. If the Packers' defense is to continue its strong play from the last month of last season, then Harris must be at his lock-'em-up best. It's good to feel appreciated.

Beyond that, don't for a minute think this contract won't be noticed by other players around the league, who may give Green Bay a second look during free agency. The Packers were under no obligation to rework Harris' contract. Like it or not, Harris was stuck playing under that deal for the next three seasons. But the Packers recognized Harris' superlative play and decided he wasn't being paid what he's worth.

So, what's good for Harris is good for the team, and good for its image around the league.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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