Mason's Mailbag: No Chris Harris Jr., but no fear for remaining DBs

Chris Harris Jr. is huge emotionally, not just in his play. So how does the D adapt?

-- Dan Elliott

By taking a cue from the fearless, resolute manner displayed by Harris from his 2011 rookie season -- when an injury forced him into action late in regulation and in overtime in a win at Miami – to the present day.

Confidence permeated the locker room this week – with a dash of defiance mixed in. Yes, the hearts of defenders ache for Harris, one of the most respected players in the locker room and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. But for the players tasked with filling in, not much changes.

Take Bradley Roby, for example. His playing time won’t suddenly increase because he goes from being the No. 2 cornerback to the top spot.

“I’m just going to do my job,” he said. “I never felt like there was [No.] 1 or 2. It’s left and right to me. So I’m going to hold my side down and help Ike [Isaac Yiadom] do what he can to hold his side down, and just go from there.”

And as safety Su’a Cravens noted, it’s not as though the defense struggled last week without Harris.

“Chris is our leading [defensive back], he's our captain, he's our star,” Cravens said. “And if you watch that game, I don't think you would even know that Chris got hurt, because [it's] next man in. We've all got a job to do. We've been preaching it since camp, and it ain't time to get scared now.

“We've got four games left. We need to go ahead and make this run. If you're scared, go to church, because we're ready to go ball.”

With the emergence of Phillip Lindsay, I’m wondering how different his current contract is opposed to if he had been drafted? Is he currently on a one-year deal?

-- Russell Gallegos

He is actually on a three-year contract, which is standard for undrafted signees who make the 53-man roster and do not spend time on the practice squad. All draft picks sign four-year contracts, with a team option for a fifth season for first-round picks at a rate much higher than the initial contract.

This means he would become a restricted free agent after three seasons. The Broncos experienced that with C.J. Anderson, another productive running back they found from the undrafted pool. Anderson hit the restricted market after his third season (2015) and received an offer sheet from the Miami Dolphins, which the Broncos chose to match within the seven-day window that original teams have to match offers to restricted free agents.

Do you believe that household name veterans move on in the offseason to enable Denver can rebuild around their outstanding rookie class?

-- Jerry Acord

Veteran departures are inevitable in any offseason in the salary-cap era, so if they happen they are not necessarily a result of the 2018 rookie class, or a desire to "rebuild" around it. If anything, what we've seen this year from the rookies shows that they can coexist well with key veterans who are still in their prime years. You need to look no further than to the Von Miller-Bradley Chubb combination for an example of how a mid-career veteran like Miller, in his eighth season, is a perfect complement for a rookie.

So if the Broncos move on from some veteran players, it would not necessarily be a result of passing the baton to the 2018 rookies. There are examples where this could be the case, but likely more where it is not. It would simply be about improving the roster. In addition, you can look at positions such as running back and wide receiver and see that the transition has already happened. Prior to his Achilles tendon injury, Emmanuel Sanders was the only wide receiver with more than a single season of 53-man roster experience, while at running back, the Broncos' two leading rushers are rookies.

And do not be surprised if the Broncos add some veterans on the open market in free agency -- something that, again, is typical for an offseason in this era. The Broncos should continue to be a blend of experience and youthful vigor in 2019.

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