At this point in time, NFL teams are still not allowed to contact potential free agents from other teams, nor their agents regarding negotiations for the new league year. However, with NFL coaches and general managers all in the same place for last week’s NFL Combine, it basically happens anyways.
And so the first few rumors for free agency are starting to crawl in, and the first one regarding the Detroit Lions isn’t all that surprising: according to Broncos insider Troy Renck, the Detroit Lions are one of several teams interested in adding veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Other teams reportedly interested include the Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans, and New York Jets.
There were rumors at the 2019 trade deadline that the Lions were interested in acquiring Harris, and with Darius Slay’s future in Detroit looking bleaker and bleaker, adding a veteran like Harris makes a lot of sense, even if the team is planning on targeting cornerback early in April’s draft.
Additionally, there may be some mutual interest with Harris. Lions new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin helped kickstart Harris’ career as the Broncos’ defensive backs coach in 2013 and 2014. The veteran cornerback would make a huge jump in play those years, culminating in his first Pro Bowl and All Pro designations in 2014.
Chris Harris Jr. not making the NFL top 100 is a shocker.— Mark Chichester (@PFF_Chichester) August 1, 2019
Among the 59 CBs who have seen at least 500 targets in the PFF era (2006-18), Harris’ 71.8 passer rating allowed ranks 6th, his 10.2 yards allowed per reception ranks first, and his 0.87 yards per coverage snap ranks 2nd pic.twitter.com/IIg6UPSHkX
But how would Harris potentially fit in Detroit? The Lions just handed nickel cornerback Justin Coleman a big four-year, $36 million contract last offseason. Some of Harris’ best years came at the slot, although last year he primarily played on the outside.
Another drawback could be Harris’ age. He’ll turn 31 before next season begins, and he’s coming off the worst season of his career in terms of PFF grade (69.9), passer rating allowed (109.4) and interceptions (1).
Still, Harris has a ton of talent, and it’s clear the Lions value it. If Slay is gone—and things certainly seem to be trending that way—Harris is a short-term solution for Detroit while they start building for the future at the position.