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Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. signs five-year deal with Denver Broncos

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ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Chris Harris Jr.'s wild 2014 ride started out with a torn ACL in the playoffs and hit a high note Friday when he signed a five-year contract extension with the Denver Broncos worth $42.5 million.

"It's been a great year and it's been a crazy year," Harris told The Associated Press. "It started with me tearing my ACL, a very low point in my career. And now it's just amazing how I feel right now."

Despite a stellar career at Kansas, Harris wasn't one of the three dozen cornerbacks drafted in 2011, and his signing bonus with the Broncos that year was just $2,000.

"I remember I bought a PS4 PlayStation with that money and I saved the rest," Harris said.

And that's more than he plans to spend right away with his latest signing bonus — $10 million, which is 5,000 times larger than his signing bonus was 3 1/2 years ago.

"I've always done a good job of saving the money I did get and really, I got everything I need already," said Harris, whose wife recently gave birth to their firstborn daughter.

Harris has made a successful comeback this season, tallying 43 tackles, 18 pass breakups, three interceptions and a sack for the Broncos (10-3), who can wrap up their fourth straight AFC West title with a win Sunday at San Diego (8-5).

"It's a priority for us to develop and reward our own players," GM John Elway said. "Whether on the field or in the community, we're proud to have Chris representing the Broncos for years to come."

When camp began, Elway's dual priority was signing wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas to contract extensions. But both rejected the team's initial offers and while they've only seen their stock soar, the Broncos turned their attention to Harris, one of their defensive cornerstones.

Harris said negotiations lagged over the last month until Elway got involved and helped close the deal Friday.

"Oh man, I'm just thankful, happy, excited. Really, most of all, relieved," Harris said. "Just playing this season with this hanging over my head and still playing at a high level has been pretty hard. So, now I can just focus on playing football. This really just motivates me even more just to go out and play even harder for the coaches and this organization and this city and the fans."

In his three-plus years with the Broncos, Harris has picked off 10 passes, scored two touchdowns, forced a fumble and had three fumble recoveries.

He quickly rose through Denver's depth chart to earn playing time as a rookie and became a starter in 2012. But after a stellar 2013 season, Harris tore his left ACL in the Broncos' divisional playoff against the Chargers.

After watching the Super Bowl from the sideline, he flew to Florida for Dr. James Andrews to repair his knee.

While he was recuperating, he signed a one-year restricted free agent tender worth $2,187,000 this season.

His emergence and versatility playing both the slot and on the outside helped the Broncos decide to bid farewell to star Champ Bailey last winter.

When Bailey officially retired last month, he said Harris was a worthy successor.

"He's playing better than anybody in this league right now," Bailey said at the time. "I just hope they treat him like it around here."

On Friday, they did just that.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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