ORLANDO, Fla. — Cornerback Chris Harris is the ideal person to ask about the state of the Broncos.
With the organization for eight years, Harris is arguably the best slot corner in the NFL and will be a big part of coach Vic Fangio’s building project.
Harris was named to his fourth Pro Bowl last week when New England’s AFC title-game win eliminated Stephon Gilmore from participating. Harris suffered a broken leg in early December but was cleared this month to play.
Since joining the Broncos in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, Harris has seen the ultimate high (a Super Bowl win after the 2015 season) and significant lows (consecutive years of 5-11 and 6-10).
“Right now, we’re trending down, but we’ll be able to flip it and get it back right,” Harris said. “I think (general manager John) Elway, what he’s done with the coaches and what they’ll do the players and who they keep, I think we’ll get moving in the right direction.”
During a post-walkthrough interview with The Denver Post on Friday, Harris covered many topics. Details have been added to the questions for context.
Question: A day after the season, you said the Broncos had much catching up to do. What do you make of the moves they’ve made so far, chiefly the addition of coach Vic Fangio?
Harris: “I think we’ve found coaches who are very smart, who have evolved in their careers, and that’s what we need. We need something like a breath of fresh air.”
Q: Players don’t ever want to say their team needs to take a step back to eventually take multiple steps forward, but do the Broncos need a big reset?
Harris: “I think we’ve still got the pieces (to compete). I see Elway making a big splash in free agency this year and getting some talent. If we find the right guys that can play together, we can definitely win.”
Q: You’ve played for former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has been in this league forever. Fangio has been in the NFL for more than three decades. How much can he use that experience to stabilize the organization?
Harris: “You’d be surprised how the older coaches are hipper than the younger guys. I’m eager to learn from Vic. He has so much experience in the game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t know what I’m going to do after football, but I do know coaching is a possibility and the front office is a possibility. I’m going to pick his brain as much as possible and take in as much as I can, because they say he’s one of the best. I’ve been able to learn from Wade and keep a lot of his information and now to learn from Vic, it’s going to be huge.”
Q: We’re a long way from Fangio presenting his playbook to the Broncos, but do you have an idea of how he’s going to use you?
Harris: “No, but shoot, put me on the best receiver. I don’t think that’s too hard. Whoever the No. 1 is, line me up on him.”
Q: The Broncos’ cornerbacks could look vastly different after you and Isaac Yiadom. Would you like them to add a young guy who can maybe spell you in covering the slot receiver? (Harris had to play almost exclusively inside last season because he was the Broncos’ best and only option to cover the slot receiver.)
Harris: “Oh, yeah, if we can find somebody who can play in the slot and I can just match the No. 1 guy, I would love that. That would be ideal for me. But we have to find that guy. It’s hard. We’ll see happen with (free agent Bradley) Roby’s situation or see if we can find some other guys. I would like to have somebody spell me inside for sure.”
Q: A new coaching staff means a new cast of players and many a much younger roster. Will your leadership have to take another jump in 2019?
Harris: “I think I did that (in 2018), and I’ll be able to sustain that. When I got hurt, it was an absence (for the Broncos’ secondary). I wasn’t part of the team. I was in the meetings, but I couldn’t play, and I do a lot of my talking on the field. To not have that, I think it hurt us (the Broncos went 0-4 after Harris’ injury). I’ll do what I do. I feel like I’m an extra coach out there. I’ll continue to do that, but I think Fangio will have me even more prepared.”
Q: You have one year remaining on your contract. Would you be open to an extension this offseason? (Harris’ current salary cap number is $8.766 million, and he turns 30 on June 18).
Harris: “Definitely open to an extension, whenever they call me. I’m 29 right now. But I have a lot of juice left. I’m not close to being done. I feel like I’m getting better.
Q: Have you and your agent (Fred Lyles) talked about approaching the Broncos to initiate talks?
Harris: “I haven’t talked to him yet. After (the Pro Bowl), me and him will have a big talk about my future. But my wife and I have talked a lot about it.”