Aqib Talib’s days in Denver may be coming to a close, but at least half of the Broncos’ All-Pro cornerback tandem will be back in Orange for the 2018 season.
The Broncos picked up a $1 million option to keep Chris Harris Jr. on the roster, according to 9 News’ Mike Klis. Denver could have opted out of Harris’ contract, allowing the 28-year-old to test free agency, and faced under $4 million in cap penalties. The Broncos’ decision was due by next Tuesday, and they’ll face a similar situation in 12 months, before the last year of Harris’ deal. Harris has a cap hit of $10.4 million in 2018 and $8.8 million in 2019.
Harris joined the Broncos in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas and burst onto the scene, notching himself a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie team. Since then, Harris has established himself as the league’s premier slot cornerback and was a key piece of the Super Bowl 50-winning “No Fly Zone,” one of the best secondaries in NFL history. Harris is a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Prior to the 2015 season, he signed a team-friendly five-year, $42.5 million contract.
Aqib Talib, who starts opposite Harris, is likely in his final days with the Broncos. Denver, which is currently slated for the largest cornerback payroll the league this season, can save $11 million if they cut or trade the 32-year-old. Talib has two years and $19 million remaining on his contract, an average annual salary that would rank 18th among NFL cornerbacks.
Talib reportedly prefers to be released rather than traded, which would allow him to choose his new home, but that hasn’t stopped the Broncos’ front office from shopping the five-time Pro Bowler. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Wednesday that the 49ers had engaged John Elway in trade talks, but those talks reportedly stalled. Talib reportedly prefers to return to the New England Patriots where he played from 2012-13.
If Talib doesn’t return to Denver, fifth-year cornerback Bradley Roby will take his place as a starter. The former first-round draft pick has posted six interceptions in his four seasons with the Broncos, working primarily as the team’s nickel cornerback.
Denver has a couple of in-house options to fill Roby’s place as CB3 in 2017 third-round pick Brendan Langley and Marcus Rios who signed with the Broncos last summer as an undrafted free agent. Neither would inspire confidence, but both have starter-caliber potential.
Talib’s departure would likely put the Broncos in the market for a cornerback in the draft or free agency.