A Twitter exchange this week between Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Harris Jr caused excitement throughout Chiefs Kingdom. Many Chiefs fans were already clamoring for Harris to sign with KC. But Harris saying to Mathieu “tell your people to call my people” resulted in a flurry of comments, mostly from Chiefs fans thrilled by the possibility of seeing Harris in KC red. And this got me thinking, would Chris Harris really be an upgrade at CB compared to what Kansas City fielded last season? Let’s investigate.
Harris has been a stand-out at the slot corner position since entering the league in 2011. He has been to four Pro Bowls, was twice named Second-team All Pro (2014, 2015), and made First-team All Pro in 2016. With the league becoming more pass heavy, a player of Harris’ caliber would be a welcome addition to the defense of many NFL teams.
The Chiefs need to add players at CB. Currently, they only have Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton on the roster. Harris said in December he would like to return to playing on the outside on base downs and in the slot in sub packages. With many teams playing with three WRs, that would mean Harris would play mostly in the slot. If he were to sign with the Chiefs, this would mean they still have a need for a CB on the outside. Kansas City could decide to leave Harris on the outside and have Fenton play in the slot. Fenton did play quite well at the position last season. But if the Chiefs greatest need is for a CB to play outside, is Harris the best option?
Bashaud Breeland played really well for the Chiefs last season. He was signed to a one year prove it deal with KC and he played well enough that he should garner some attention in free agency. Breeland signed a three-year deal with the Panthers in 2018 but failed a physical that voided the deal. He has been patiently waiting for another opportunity to sign a multi-year deal and this could be the off-season that he gets his wish.
Some think Breeland may ask for more money than Kansas City can afford to pay. But Harris will not come inexpensive either. Starting CBs do not come cheap and unless the Chiefs can find a day one starter in the draft, they are going to have to pay to get a solid veteran. Expert speculation has both CBs signing contracts worth anywhere between $10-$13 million. So, if it is anticipated that both players may sign deals within a few million dollars of each other, the decision may come down to their production on the field. Let’s look at some statistics in an attempt to compare the two players.
Harris played in 16 games for the Broncos. He was targeted 73 times and he allowed a completion percentage of 67% on those targets with six passes defended. Opposing QBs had a passer rating of 112.3 when they looked his way. Harris combined for 56 tackles (44 solo) and tallied one interception. He will be 31 years old when the 2020 season kicks off.
Breeland saw action in 16 games for the Chiefs. He was targeted 62 times and allowed a completion percentage of 48% on those targets with eight passes defended. Opposing QBs had a passer rating of 92.2 when throwing toward Breeland. He combined for 48 tackles (37 solo) and he had two interceptions. Breeland also had two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown. He just turned 28 years old in January.
Looking at the above statistics, one could easily argue that Breeland had a better season than Harris. While Harris saw 11 more passes come his way, Breeland allowed almost 20% fewer completions. Harris did have 4 fewer yards per completion and he did record more tackles. But Breeland out played Harris in most statistical categories in 2019. And he is three years younger than Harris. Breeland will most likely just be turning 31 when his next contract expires.
I am not sure why people continue to sleep on Bashaud Breeland. He played well enough for the Redskins on his rookie deal that the Panthers offered him a three-year, $24 million contract. That deal was voided due to an unfortunate injury while on vacation. He then played great for the Green Bay Packers in 2018 after returning from injury. Breeland was a huge part of the Chiefs revival on defense that sparked a Super Bowl run. If I am Brett Veach and looking to spend $10-$13 million per year on a CB, I would much rather have the younger player that has already proven himself in this defense. Breeland will only get better in year two of playing in the same system. His familiarity with the returning players on defense and defensive system give him an advantage over other free agents.
I am not saying that Chris Harris Jr is not a great player or that he would not do well in this system. I just believe that Bashaud Breeland is the better option.