All it cost John Elway to kiss and make up with Broncos cornerback Chris Harris was a $3 million bump in pay.
That’s one expensive bro hug, don’t you think?
What’s more, Denver gave Harris a $650,000 bonus merely to show up Wednesday for work. Yep, a disgruntled employee stuck it to the man.
I guess respect comes at a steep price in the NFL.
“That’s what it’s about,” Harris said. “You want to feel appreciated for the work that you’ve done and the work you’re about to put in.”
Hey, the rest of us working stiffs can relate, Chris. We’re all overworked and underappreciated. Maybe we should all phone the boss and insist we won’t be back on the job until there’s a respectful correction in our compensation.
Wait … what? You mean the real world doesn’t work that way?
In the NFL, it’s all funny money and no real commitment. This is nothing more than a marriage of convenience between Harris and Elway, with temporary vows written in dollars and common sense.
Elway and Harris have agreed to stay together for another 16 regular-season games. They did it for the benefit of the kids in the Denver secondary, not to mention a boon to the 60-year-old graybeard getting his first shot as a head coach in this league.
“We got the whole team back,” crowed safety Will Parks, among the players who wanted to be in the $3 million glow of Harris’ smile during his first practice of the spring with Denver.
Happy days. Here again.
Did Elway or anyone else in Broncos Country really want to watch Vic Fangio’s defense without Harris roaming the secondary? Was Harris really intent on staying out of uniform, withholding his services if Denver refused to make him the league’s top-paid cornerback?
“I thought I was going to get traded at one time in the offseason, and it didn’t happen,” Harris said. “God works for a reason, and I’m back.”
Well, thank goodness. This tiff between Harris and Elway resulted in a compromise rather than a trade. And that’s no small deal. Why?
Elway tends to be so uber-competitive I sometimes wonder if he would rather destroy a relationship than lose an argument. And the chip on the shoulder of a undrafted rookie in 2011 morphs into an angry boulder anytime Harris feels disrespected.
So let’s give applause for two proud men who stopped the silly chest-thumping, even if Elway and Harris agreed to little more than kicking the possibility of a meaningful, Broncos-for-life commitment down the road.
Rather than holding their No. 1 cornerback to the terms of the final year on his contract, the Broncos decided to bump his salary from $8.7 million to $12.05 million in 2019, as well as giving Harris the opportunity to walk as a free agent at this season’s end.
I asked: Is the opportunity to be a free agent a plus in this deal?
“I think so,” replied Harris, unafraid of being on the wrong side of age 30 in a young man’s game. “I just have to take it and run. … My last contract year, I think I acted a fool, so I’m very confident in myself. I’m betting on myself.”
OK, let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty.
As football operations chief, Elway is playing 2019 with the urgency of a man feeling the heat of this team’s 11-21 record over the past two seasons. He’s pushing his chips to the middle of the table, with the same playoffs-or-bust mentality of a Hall of Fame quarterback who not only believed he could throw a football through a brick wall but often succeeded.
Add Harris to the list of key Broncos, including quarterback Joe Flacco and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, whose futures in Denver seem tied to nothing worse than 10 victories and a postseason berth.
“Now, ” Harris said, “it’s just about winning football games.”
With his nifty $3 million bump in salary, the first thing Harris should buy is a ticket to the Super Bowl tournament for the Broncos.
His number of interceptions or stellar grades from Pro Football Focus won’t really matter, should Denver fail to qualify for the playoffs for fourth consecutive season. If the Broncos flop, Harris will be out on the street with Flacco and Wolfe, looking for a new job.