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What the Chargers are getting in Chris Harris

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Harris should move back into the slot in LA

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Chargers put the finishing touch on a trifecta of signings on Wednesday when they signed former Broncos All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris to a two-year/$20.25 million deal. Harris reportedly chose the Chargers over a number of other potential suitors, including the Las Vegas Raiders who were said to have offered him a longer contract.

Harris was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Broncos in 2011 where Ron Milus, the Bolts’ current DBs coach, was his position coach. He’s now joining Milus in LA with a slew of talent in the secondary that includes Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Derwin James.

Harris has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league over the last eight years, earning two Second-Team All-Pro nods in 2014 and ‘15 with a First-Team All-pro selection coming in 2016. He was also nominated to the Pro Bowl during those three years, adding a fourth nomination in 2018. His greatest achievement in his career, if you asked him, would probably be the championship he won with the Broncos on Super Bowl 50.

At 5-10 and 199 pounds, Harris has never had ideal size for an outside corner. But what he does have are elite instincts and man-coverage abilities that have served him well in the slot. Harris has made his money covering out of the slot and, although he’s serviceable on the outside, all you have to do is look at his 2019 film to understand why he needs to stay inside.

Harris has recorded an interception in every season of his career. Only twice has he failed record more than one. Those two seasons were his rookie campaign and last year where he was forced to play on the outside. Throughout his career, Harris has normally played between 50-53% of his snaps out of the slot. Last year, that number shrunk all the way down to 3%, so it’s expected that he didn’t quite have the year he is used to.

According to the guys over at Pro Football Focus, they spoke with Harris soon after the signing and he told them that the Chargers are letting Harris play the slot while Desmond will transition into a safety role for the team. Beyond that, I don’t have anymore details about how King’s role in the defense will change.

Speaking of PFF, Harris is coming off his worst-graded season with a 69.9 overall defensive grade. Again, he was playing on the outside the entire season and there is zero reason to believe he won’t bounce back playing his normal position in 2020. For context, here are his grades throughout his career:

2018: 85.5
2017: 79.1
2016: 90.2
2015: 80.5
2014: 91.9
2013: 79.9
2012: 90.4
2011: 76.7

As you can see, he’s gotten more grades above the 80.0 mark than he has below it. That is excellent consistency and that is a trait that any Chargers fan will appreciate in a player. This was a huge move by the Chargers and just when you think this defense is going to be fun to watch as it is, they make a move to upgrade an already-strong position group.