How Denver Broncos DL Shelby Harris went from a futures contract to a big paycheck
In January 2017, the Denver Broncos signed their futures – players who, in most cases, spent most of their early NFL careers on practice teams, hoping to one day become an active list.
One of those players was a defensive lineman the Oakland Raiders selected in the seventh round (235 overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft. This player has had eight games under his belt in two seasons with the Raiders, but mostly spent time on their training squad and was permanently kicked out of the squad in May 2016.
That player was Shelby Harris.
Before Harris joined the Broncos, he signed with the New York Jets in June 2016, but failed to make the 53-man roster. He was out of the NFL for most of 2016, before the Dallas Cowboys added him to their practice squad.
The Cowboys didn’t re-sign him, however, and the Broncos gave it a shot.
The Broncos had no idea they were getting a gem.
Harris stood out in the 2017 preseason, thriving under the tutelage of defensive line coach Bill Kollar. Not only was he on the active roster, but Harris became a key player in the D-line rotation, playing all 16 games with six starts and registering 5.5 sacks (second behind only Von Miller), nine hits. QB, 34 tackles (seven for a loss) and three breakouts.
The Broncos retained Harris as an exclusive rights free agent in 2018, and although his sacks fell to 1.5, he still had seven QB hits, 39 tackles (eight for a loss) and four breakouts. , one of which led to an interception.
It was enough for the Broncos to give him the second-round restricted free agent offer in 2019. That’s when Harris really broke, with nine assists, a forced fumble, six sacks and 49 tackles ( eight for a loss) starting all 16 games.
Harris started this season as a nose tackle, but didn’t fit that role and was brought back to 3-tech, where he shone. It seemed likely he was going to get a big paycheck in the 2020 offseason.
But a long-term deal did not materialize. Harris decided to return to the Broncos, betting on himself with a one-year, $ 3.25 million contract.
While Harris’ stats in 2020 may not have been as impressive as they were in 2019, they don’t tell the whole story. He missed five games, including four when he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve roster, with the last game of the season lost to a knee injury – which thankfully did not require surgery.
Even with the games he missed, Harris has grown significantly, especially after the Broncos lost D-line veteran Jurrell Casey acquired in a trade with the Tennessee Titans to a bicep. torn up. Harris, in his 11 starts, recorded seven broken passes, one forced fumble, 2.5 sacks, 11 QB hits and 32 tackles, four for a loss.
It’s his pass breakages that really mean what Harris means for the Broncos. He broke 23 at the line in his four seasons with the team.
As the Broncos move into the 2021 offseason, new general manager George Paton has indicated he wants to extend Harris. The only question was: for how much?
Monday we got our answer. Harris was awarded a three-year, $ 27 million contract with $ 15 million in full warranties. It turned out to be the perfect deal that rewarded Harris for his play on the field, but didn’t blow the budget.
Harris now enters 2021 as a longtime veteran of the Broncos’ defensive linemen and will be tasked with assuming a leadership role. But something tells me he will live up to it.
And to think that it all came from a player who was once looking for a chance to prove himself. But once he got it, he made the most of it.
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