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Reupped Harris: Broncos will get fair shot after '19

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After an offseason in which he believed he would be traded and he squared off with the Broncos in a contract dispute, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was back at work Wednesday, hoping to show Denver and the rest of the league his best work has yet to come.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection had skipped the team's offseason work in an attempt to get a contract extension from a franchise that signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2011. Harris was in the last year of a five-year, $42.5 million deal he signed in 2015.

He was scheduled to earn $8.9 million, but will now earn $12.05 million for 2019 and will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

"I didn't know, it was a roller-coaster offseason, I didn't know,'' Harris said.

"I didn't know what was going to happen. I just made sure I was ready to go.''

Asked whether he believed he would be traded this offseason, Harris added: "I thought I was going to be traded, I did.''

After some contentious moments during the offseason when Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway wouldn't budge on a multiyear extension at the number Harris and his representatives were seeking -- believed to be a deal averaging $15 million per year -- and talks on an extension really didn't gather much momentum, the one-year deal was a short-term solution for both sides.

Harris signed the deal Wednesday morning and participated in the Broncos' practice. He was limited some as the Broncos' coaches didn't let him participate in more than two consecutive snaps at any point in team drills. Harris said he expected to pick up coordinator Vic Fangio's defense quickly.

"He's just got to learn our system, there are a lot of things he's got to learn, we've got to ease him back in and see what kind of shape he's in,'' Fangio said after Wednesday's practice. "He may have been working out hard wherever he was, but playing football is different. ... He told me he'll learn fast, but I've got to see it, not hear it.''

When Harris was in team drills, he was at the left cornerback spot with the starters. He joked the move from predominantly playing man-to-man coverage in recent seasons to Fangio's more diverse system is exactly what he was talking about at the end of the 6-10 season in 2018.

The Broncos also signed two defensive backs in free agency: Kareem Jackson, who signed a three-year, $33 million deal, and Bryce Callahan, who signed for three years and $21 million.

"This is everything I was crying about doing,'' Harris said with a laugh.

"We've got guys who are very flexible and can play everywhere, guys who are smart ... we're going to be able to disguise, we're going to make quarterbacks think.''

Harris' value as a defensive back who can line up in the slot, on the outside or even play safety if needed was easy to see this past season. The Broncos had clawed their way back to 6-6 last season with a Dec. 2 win in Cincinnati. But Harris fractured his lower leg in the game.

Without Harris, the Broncos lost four straight to end the season, and coach Vance Joseph and most of his staff were fired the day after the season ended.

Harris said Wednesday he still wants to remain with the Broncos moving forward and would give the team "a fair chance'' next offseason when he is a free agent.

"I'm just taking it day by day,'' Harris said. "I always said I wanted to retire here and that's always been my mentality here. If I got to show them 16 games I want to retire here that's what I'm going to do.''

Asked if he would have continued to hold out into the regular season if the one-year deal wasn't signed, Harris simply said: "It got done, so I don't have to answer that.''

Harris will also participate in the team's mandatory minicamp next week, which will conclude the Broncos' offseason program.

"Two weeks is better than one week, two weeks is better than no weeks,'' Fangio said. "At least now he starts the process of learning and getting in football shape. Three weeks would have been better, two's better than one; we'll take whatever we can get.''