This isn’t how negotiations are supposed to go.
There’s usually some give and take. Each side surrenders something, so they can also gain something in return. It’s a tradeoff, one built upon mutually understood plusses and minuses.
But that’s not what’s currently happening in the contract squabble between the Broncos and Chris Harris Jr.
According to reports, the two sides are honing in on a new agreement that would bump the Pro Bowl cornerback’s salary in 2019 by a few million bucks, while also allowing him to still become a free agent heading into the 2020 campaign. In most circles, this is seen as a win-win; it’s both sides getting what they want.
From CHJ’s standpoint, it’s certainly a victory. Instead of earning a base salary of $7.8 million this season, he’ll get a bump to $12-$15 million, depending on where the two sides agree to meet in the middle. That’s great news for him; he’ll do the same job he’s already agreed to do, for significantly higher compensation.
But it’s not a great deal for the Broncos, for one simple reason: They aren’t getting anything in return.
Denver already has Harris under contract for this season. He’s supposed to be playing for them in 2019. So to say that Elway is getting one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL on the field by offering him a pay raise this season isn’t accurate; he already had that inked.
He’s also not getting the other things that teams normally receive in return for giving a player a bump in pay. The Broncos aren’t getting salary cap relief; in reality, Harris’ number will jump significantly after he signs the new deal, which will limit Elway’s ability to sign additional talent this year. And he’s not securing the services of a great player for additional seasons; Harris will still become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019 campaign.
Essentially, Elway is giving Harris a few extra million just to be nice. He’s attempting to appease his star player in order to keep the cornerback happy, hoping that will result in the best possible performance.
That’s just plain nutty. In so many ways.
For one, the Broncos aren’t running a charity. Elway isn’t Santa Claus, passing out presents to anyone he deems worthy. They’re running a business, one that has (albeit enormous) finite resources.
Money spent on Harris is money that can’t be spent on something else. So to not get anything new in exchange for that expenditure is the definition of a bad investment. Instead, it’s a donation, pure and simple.
Secondly, Harris shouldn’t have to be prodded to play well; he shouldn’t have to be pacified in order to do his job. The cornerback signed a contract, agreeing to play through the 2019 season at pre-determined salaries. That’s exactly what he should be expected to do.
If Harris doesn’t want to live up to those terms, that’s fine; he can always choose to sit out the season and forfeit nearly $8 million. But he always knew that his next chance to cash in would be 2020. The Broncos didn’t spring this on him, so he shouldn’t be pouting about it.
Finally, this move sets a bad precedent. Elway is establishing a new norm moving forward, where players who outplay their existing deal (and no one would argue that Harris hasn’t done just that) can get a pay raise without having to offer the team something in return.
This is a shocking change of course for Elway. During his first seven years as the Broncos general manager, No. 7 was a hardline negotiator. He battled with Von Miller, Matt Prater, Demaryius Thomas and others on contracts, looking to get the best possible deal for the team during the negotiating process.
Apparently, he’s turned over a new leaf. And it’s not a good one.
Yes, it would be great to have Chris Harris Jr. on the field for Denver in 2019; that’s a no-brainer. But to simply yield to his demands, without getting anything in return, is bad business.
If CHJ gets a pay raise, the Broncos need to get something in return. Otherwise, John Elway has been hoodwinked, outmaneuvered and snookered during this negotiation.
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