Chris Harris Jr. moves toward free agency, but he’d “love to” stay with the Broncos

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The fourth-best cornerback of the decade will become a free agent in March, for the first time since he signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2011. On Monday, Chris Harris Jr. expressed public interest in remaining in Denver.

“I’d love to,” Harris told reporters. “We’re getting the right pieces back — definitely need some more pieces around me to just do what I do. That’s one thing I’m looking at in the offseason. My family loves it here. Of course, my kids growing up here. I grew up here. It’s definitely my first home for sure.”

He wants the love to be reciprocal, however.

“[W]hen you know the team really loves you and they want you there [you play better],” Harris said. “Of course my next situation will have that and I will know the team loves me and I’ll be all in in trying to figure out what we can do.”

Mike Klis of 9News.com reports that the Broncos offered Harris a two-year, $25 million extension at the trade deadline, with the 2020 salary guaranteed. He rejected the offer, carried the injury risk, emerged from the season healthy, and likely will now do better as a free agent.

But money isn’t the only factor. Scheme matters, too.

“Definitely how they’re going to use me,” Harris said. “This is my first season not playing the slot. That’s where I know I’m the best in the league, in the slot. I’d definitely love to play both. When I’m just playing outside you only see one aspect of my game. Next year, being able to do both is kind of getting back to normal.”

Harris said that playing in the slot remains a “big possibility” if he stays. In 2019, the Broncos lacked the resources to allow him to play inside. Inside or outside, the 30-year-old believes he can still do plenty.

“I have a lot left,” Harris said. “I feel great. I was able to play all season, every game and also do a lot more running than I’ve done in the past, chasing the guy around all game, chasing the best player all around all game, teams doing no huddle, being able to stay conditioned through the whole season with that. It’s a lot tougher than anything I’ve ever done. Trust me, [I was] chasing the best player around all year and not getting too many breaks.”

Regardless of what happens next, he appreciates his time with the Broncos.

“I’ve just been reflecting on my career here,” Harris said. “It’s been an awesome ride. I’m just thankful, thankful for all of you. You have been great to me. Hopefully I’ve been able to be great with you all. It’s been a great working relationship with you all. I’m just thankful.”

He’s one of the great success stories of the past generation. Two inches short of six feet tall and not drafted out of Kansas, he has become an elite defensive back who continues to be overlooked when rattling off the best in the game. And if Denver is going to keep him, it surely won’t be cheap to do it.