ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Frederick Lyles, the agent for Broncos’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr., talked directly with Denver general manager John Elway last week, sources told 9NEWS.
Harris has so far missed the first six weeks of the Broncos’ offseason program in hopes of gaining leverage for a new contract.
During his conversation with Elway, Lyles reiterated his asking price. Sources say it was unchanged from what 9NEWS reported three weeks ago – an annual average salary greater than $15 million.
A source said the Broncos will not be trading Harris. One team expressed interest in acquiring Harris in the hours prior to the draft, but backed off, the source said.
Harris is currently scheduled to make $7.8 million in 2019 after the team picked up his $1 million option bonus in March before he decided to surrender his $100,000 workout bonus in exchange for a greater contract.
He is in the final year of what was a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension in December 2014. At the time, that deal made Harris the NFL’s highest-paid No. 2 cornerback. Since then, the Broncos moved on from Aqib Talib and Harris has earned the claim of No. 1 corner.
Elway and Lyles are scheduled to speak again next week at which time Elway is expected to submit a counteroffer, according to a source close to Elway. It's unknown whether the Broncos' offer will be a one-year adjustment on Harris' current contract or a multi-year extension offer.
Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell sounded optimistic when asked if the Harris’ situation created a sense of urgency in getting his younger cornerbacks ready.
“That’s a situation we think is going to unfold in a good way, sooner rather than later," Donatell said. “It’s just a great time to develop some depth with the guys we have and the young guys. We’re using it as an advantage for right now.”
The coach is no doubt hoping to get Harris back, but just because the two sides are talking does not mean an agreement is imminent. The Broncos and center Matt Paradis opened negotiations last summer, but there was never an agreement and Paradis is now with Carolina.
The Broncos’ proposal to Harris is not expected to make him the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback – a distinction Washington’s Josh Norman currently holds at $15 million per year.
Thus, Harris’ asking price. Miami just gave cornerback Xavien Howard a five-year extension at $15.3 million a year in new money, but the annual average drops to $12.75 million when the existing year’s salary is included.
The Broncos would point out Howard is about to turn 26 and it’s his first contract after his rookie deal, while Harris is about to turn 30 and is looking for his second, big contract after his rookie deal.
Harris and Lyles would counter with: one, the Broncos just gave an $11 million-a-year contract to defensive back Kareem Jackson, who is 31 years old. And two, Harris has received four Pro Bowl berths while Howard has one and Jackson none.
Because the Broncos’ offseason program to date is defined as “voluntary” according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Harris is not officially considered a holdout. Nor is he required to attend the Broncos’ nine scheduled OTA (organized team activities) sessions over the next three weeks.
However, Harris would be subjected to fines up to nearly $90,000 if he skips the Broncos’ three-day mandatory, three-day minicamp, June 4-6.
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