Broncos give Chris Harris Jr. a hefty 2019 pay raise

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The Denver Broncos and Chris Harris Jr. have ended their contract stalemate with the team bumping the cornerback’s pay in 2019 from about $8 million to $12 million, which is $1 million more than the team’s new cornerback, free agent Kareem Jackson is making.

“Done deal!” the team tweeted late Tuesday afternoon.

Harris skipped the first two months of the team’s offseason workouts while angling for a pay raise and working out with his personal trainer in Dallas.

In a statement, general manager John Elway said, “We have a lot of respect for Chris as a player and for everything he’s meant to our organization. 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.”

However, Harris is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Harris and his agent met with Elway at the NFL scouting combine and came away feeling good about getting a new deal. Those feelings soured when Elway signed two cornerbacks in free agency, Bryce Callahan (three years, $21 million) and Jackson (three years, $33 million).

Harris then accused Elway of making it personal by taking a dig at him during his pre-draft news conference when he went out of his way to say that while he would look at Harris’ contract after the draft, he wouldn’t necessarily adjust his deal.

Harris, who turns 30 in June, is entering the final season of the five-year, $42.5 million contract he signed in 2015 just before the market for elite cornerbacks took off.

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.

The Broncos were 6-6 last season and in the playoff race when Harris sustained a hairline fracture in his right leg and missed the final four games, all losses. He returned to play in the Pro Bowl, where he recorded an interception.

Harris told The Associated Press recently that he only needs a day to learn new coach Vic Fangio’s defense and that he’s been training tirelessly with his personal trainer in Dallas in preparation for the upcoming season.

“I’m ready to roll. I feel great,” Harris said. “I got my body people with me. I stretch every day. My hips are fluid. I’m making sure I’m ready. I’m not going to stop until I get that gold jacket. I’ve got a lot of years left in me. I’m a DB. I play everywhere. I’m getting ready to face Antonio Brown Week 1.”

The Broncos open against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 9.

Even with the Broncos changing quarterbacks and coaches again this offseason, the dominant story line in Denver has been Harris’ holding out for a contract adjustment.

Von Miller chimed in recently, saying, “When you first get here they tell you … if you do all of the right things in the community and you do all of the right things on the football field, they’ll take care of you. Chris has definitely done everything and then some.”

Champ Bailey, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, told The AP that while he saw both sides, he felt Harris deserved a hefty pay raise.

“I think he’s been in his prime for a few years now. But you have to be realistic. I always try to be objective. I know this guy should get paid. But then I think about Elway’s stance. He’s a businessman. He’s going to do what is best for the Broncos,” Bailey said.

“And the way I see it is you’d better get him signed but you’d also better protect yourself for the long run. He is on the wrong side of 30, let’s be real. But, does he deserve to be the highest-paid corner at least on that team? Hell, yeah!”

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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