ENGLEWOOD | Chris Harris Jr. finally feels appreciated — financially.
“Oh yeah, definitely more satisfied for what I do on the field. I definitely get more respect around the league for what I’ve done and I mean, that’s what it’s about,” Harris said Wednesday following his first workout with the Denver Broncos this offseason.
“You want to feel appreciated for the work that you’ve done and the work that you’re about to put in.
“I’m about to put in more work. You can talk about the past, of what I’ve done. But I’m excited about the future, about what I’m about to do.”
The Broncos’ four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro returned to the team after general manager John Elway agreed to give him a $3 million raise this season , bumping his salary to $12.05 million.
That’s more in line with what the league’s other elite cornerbacks are making and it’s a significant bump for a player who signed a $2,000 bonus coming out of college nine years ago and who played the past four seasons on a team-friendly deal that paid him an average of about $8 million a year.
Asked who won the standoff, Harris, who called his absence a “roller-coaster offseason,” demurred.
“Oh man, it wasn’t about winning,” Harris said . “It was just about getting back to the field. And winning games on the field. So, that’s the only thing I’m worried about. I’m not even worried about the dispute or anything. Everything’s in the past and now it’s just about winning football games.”
Harris, who turns 30 in June, skipped the Broncos’ first two months of offseason workouts hoping to get an extension averaging about $15 million, something Elway wouldn’t budge on.
“I thought I was going to get traded, I did, at one time in the offseason,” Harris said.
Eventually, both sides settled on a raise this year from the $8.9 million Harris was due, which included a $1 million option bonus paid out in March.
The raise made Harris the highest-paid cornerback on the team, just ahead of newcomer Kareem Jackson, whose three-year, $33 million free agent deal included a $9 million signing bonus and $3 million salary this season.
Although Harris is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Elway hinted that the Broncos could seek to keep him in Denver , tweeting “this contract adjustment recognizes his value to our team and the high expectations we have for Chris as a Bronco this season and hopefully for years to come.”
Harris said he would love to stay in Denver beyond this season.
“I’m going to do my thing and then at the end of the year or whatever, I’m definitely going to give them a fair chance, for sure,” he said.
The last remaining member of the “No Fly Zone” secondary that was the backbone of Denver’s Super Bowl 50 triumph, Harris is the only defensive back in the NFL with multiple interceptions in each of the past seven seasons.
Harris said Denver’s new defense, which features more zone coverage and more versatile defensive backs, is the kind of scheme he’s long been advocating and should allow him to make even more plays on the football.
“Now, I don’t have to cover a guy in man-to-man and cover him all over the field like I have in the past. Now, I can read and I think my picks will go way up because I’m going to have a chance to read the quarterback more,” Harris said. “I’ll get a chance to show you all a different skillset.”
Harris spent several weeks working out with his personal trainer in Dallas and said he could learn new coach Vic Fangio’s defense in a day.
Fangio wasn’t so sure.
“He told me he’ll learn fast, but I have to see it, not hear it,” said Fangio.
Harris is eager to show Fangio and 31 other head coaches he’s still an elite cornerback who deserves to be compensated like one.
“Every time I step on this field I’m going to bring a swagger to this defense,” Harris said. “I’m going to bring a different mentality to this defense and I’m ready to take on whomever.”