The corner store is open for business. Chris Harris Jr., No. 25 in your program, returned to work Wednesday with a 33% raise. The Broncos resolved a contract stalemate with Harris by giving him a $3 million salary boost this season, leaving him at $12.05 million, fourth highest at his position. It cracks open the door of the Broncos re-signing him as a free agent, however unlikely, and turns the New No Fly Zone into a strength.
Harris stayed away for two months, seeking a contract extension. However, his confidence never left. He believes he will thrive in coach Vic Fangio's defense.
"I mean, shoot, I am going to be me every time I step on the field. I am going to bring a swagger to this defense. I am going to bring a different mentality for this defense. Whoever is the best I want him. I am up for the challenge," said Harris, who played outside left corner with Bryce Callahan on the right side and Kareem Jackson in the slot in his first day back. "As for this defense, this is everything I have been kind of crying about doing. I love it so far. It's going to fit us well."
Harris boasts four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro honor. He covers tighter than Saran wrap. This scheme should help him create more havoc, no longer relying almost exclusively on press man. In Fangio's read-and-react attack, the secondary has freedom to make plays. Perhaps that's why safety Will Parks, who was running with the 1s on Wednesday, calls it "Christmas for corners."
"Oh yeah. It's Christmas. It's Christmas for corners and all holidays for safeties," Parks said. "Chris went out there and said, 'It's kind of easy for us to learn.' He's not going to miss a beat. What (defensive coordinator Ed) Donatell says about No. 55 (Bradley Chubb) and No. 58 (Von Miller), is that 'You've got a race car and a train wreck.' As a DB, they are going to get the pressure on the quarterback and get the ball for us. We've seen it with (Fangio's) defense in Chicago. You see their defensive backs making plays on the ball."
For Harris, the last two days represented the brakes on a roller-coaster ride. In February, he thought he would be a Bronco for life, something he still desires, though the sides remained far apart during talks about an extension. By the draft, Harris figured he was gone.
"I thought I was going to get traded. It didn't happen. God works for a reason. I am back and I am ready to roll," Harris said. "It's a relief. You want to play football. Anyone who knows me knows I got my kids, I take care of my wife, and I am straight football. To be away killed me. But I am here. I am not worried about the (contract) dispute. Everything is in the past. Now, it's about winning football games."
Fangio eased Harris back into the fold, giving him two snaps at a time. He wants to make sure he's in football shape, which differs from workout condition. Fangio, as is his wont, played Harris' arrival straight when asked how quickly the veteran would pick up the defense.
"I don't know. I don't know him well enough yet. He told me he will learn it fast. But I have to see it, not hear it," Fangio said. "But anytime you can add a good player at any position, it's a good thing, especially in the secondary. He's a versatile guy like a lot of the guys back there. So we will see how it lines up the first game in September."
Harris spent his time working with his crew in Dallas, improving his speed and quickness. He turns 30 on June 18. However, he is nowhere near the finish line. Harris is not only driven to make the Broncos Ring of Fame, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The race resumes this season with an improved defense and renewed optimism.
"The way this defense is set up it will be confusing (to opponents). It's going to be disguised. We are going to make quarterbacks think. We have versatile guys. I want to help take the pressure off them. Put me up against the best guy," Harris said. "Put me up against A.B. (Antonio Brown) in Week 1. I am ready for it. And with this defense, teams won't know what we are doing. I won't be running around just following one guy all over the field. I think my picks are going to way up. I will be able to show you all a different skillset I've got."