You can't properly evaluate the Broncos' free-agent activity this year without including what happened on Dec. 13, the day the Broncos flew to San Diego for their AFC West-clinching win over the Chargers a day later.
Before the team boarded its chartered jet, Harris pulled out a pen and signed the five-year contract extension that included a reported $24 million of guaranteed money -- but was less than he might have gotten had he hit the open market this week.
Depending on what happens in the next week, Harris may end up being the signature long-term signing of the Broncos in free agency -- along with Demaryius Thomas, who received the $12.823 million franchise tender March 2.
"I'm just glad [Harris] never hit the open market," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said on Dec. 15. "I'm glad that we were able to get it done here and he's happy.
"It's money that's well-deserved," Elway added. "He was a target for us the whole time. To tell you kind of what he's about, we didn't know exactly how he was going to come off that ACL. He's proven that. He came back faster and stronger than ever before and once we saw that, then he was our target."
And among the potential free agents on the market, Harris would have been the consensus top-ranked cornerback in this free-agent class. That would have been tempting for Harris, but he decided that the place where he made his name was the best spot to cement his reputation as one of the league's best and most versatile cornerbacks.
"Oh yeah, definitely a relief," Harris said a day after the season ended. "I'm happy to be here. I'm glad to get that out of the way. Now, I'm kind of excited to see who's going to be here next year to get it going next year. I might as well get excited for next year."
There will be some changes on defense, but not at cornerback. Of the position group, only Tony Carter has an expiring contract; he is a restricted free agent. The Broncos have no pressing need at the position; Harris, 2014 free-agent pickup Aqib Talib and last year's first-round pick, Bradley Roby, are among the best trios in the league, and Kayvon Webster is a good insurance policy as a No. 4 cornerback who still possesses untapped potential.
The market will bear monitoring for other teams, but for the Broncos, they can rest easy here. The work is already done.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS**
BRANDON FLOWERS, SAN DIEGO:He doesn't have the youth of others on the market, but he remains in his prime, and delivered lockdown work for the Chargers last year playing on a one-year, "prove it" deal. He proved his 2013 season, in which he gave up five touchdowns, including two in a Week 13 loss to the Broncos, was an aberration. Although he is not the typical second-contract, coveted cornerback, he's young enough (29) to have some good years in front of him.
CHRIS CULLIVER, SAN FRANCISCO:Came into his own last year with four interceptions, six passes defended and an opposing quarterbacks' rating of 66.5 on passes thrown in his direction, according to ProFootballFocus.com, the second-best of any cornerback on the market. His role appears likely to expand, wherever he ends up.
BYRON MAXWELL, SEATTLE:Teams targeted him frequently last year -- none more than the Broncos, with quarterback Peyton Manning throwing 12 times in his direction, completing 10 of those passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. He fared better in the second half of the season, and didn't allow a score after Week 3, according to ProFootballFocus.com
KAREEM JACKSON, HOUSTON:In a similar vein to Harris, Jackson is effective going inside to the slot in nickel packages and outside in base formations. Jackson played like a first-rounder last year, allowing a passer rating of 74.1 on passes thrown in his direction last year, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
RASHEAN MATHIS, DETROIT:He seems to be getting better with age, and he had a season that was one of the finest of his 12 to date in the league. He played all 16 games last season, the first time he hasn't missed at least one game since 2010. But given his age (35 in August), he's looking at a one-year contract.
TRAMON WILLIAMS, GREEN BAY:Age is the primary concern for Williams, who turns 32 this month. He surrendered 10 touchdown passes last year, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
TERRANCE NEWMAN, CINCINNATI:He turned 36 last September and has 12 years under his belt -- and at times last year, it seemed the years were finally catching up with Newman. The Broncos picked on him in Week 16; 130 of Manning's yards in Denver's 37-28 loss came when he threw in Newman's direction..
ANTONIO CROMARTIE, ARIZONA:Another veteran who struggled against Manning and the Broncos, Cromartie's ninth NFL season saw him concede plenty of little plays, but few big ones after Manning fired two touchdown passes at his expense in Week 5.
OTHERS OF NOTE:
Tarell Brown, Oakland
Darius Butler, Indiianapolis
Buster Skrine, Cleveland
Walter Thurmond, N.Y. Giants
Zachary Bowman, N.Y. Giants
Patrick Robinson, New Orleans
Davon House, Green Bay
Robert McClain, Atlanta
Sterling Moore, Dallas
Charles Tillman, Chicago
Alan Ball, Jacksonville
STREET FREE AGENTS:
CORTLAND FINNEGAN, EX-MIAMI:Although still capable of contributing, he allowed completions on 66.2 percent of the passes thrown at him last year, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and might be best served as a No. 3 cornerback going forward.
OTHERS OF NOTE:
Cary Williams, ex-Philadelphia
Will Blackmon, ex-Jacksonville
RESTRICTED/EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS OF NOTE:
Antwon Blake, Pittsburgh
Leonard Johnson, Tampa Bay
Anthony Levine, Baltimore
Chimdi Chekwa, Oakland
What options are available for teams looking to sign a cornerback in free agency?