Addition of Chris Harris makes cornerback secondary for Chargers in NFL draft

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LOS ANGELES — As the Los Angeles Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Times will examine their roster.

Part 1 of 10: Cornerbacks.

The Chargers last month acquired an offensive lineman, a nose tackle and a linebacker, three positions that everyone knew needed reinforcement entering free agency.

The addition that arrived as a surprise was Chris Harris Jr., the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback who left AFC West rival Denver after nine years.

Harris is regarded as one of the league’s best slot corners, a spot where the Chargers previously employed Desmond King, an All-Pro as a defensive back in 2018.

King’s performance slipped last season, however, and the Chargers couldn’t pass on the opportunity to bring in a player they know very well. As coach Anthony Lynn explained after Harris signed, “I don’t think you can ever have enough good corners on your team.”

In a conference call with reporters, Harris suggested the Chargers could tweak their defense in 2020 by leaning on the positional versatility that coordinator Gus Bradley promotes.

“I know in the past they’ve been primary just Cover 3, and just from talking to them, talking to the coaches, they want to add in more versatility,” Harris said. “That’s what we can do with me. I’ve played in a multitude of defenses. We can add different things. We don’t have to be so vanilla.”

On the perimeter, the Chargers have accomplished veteran Casey Hayward and fourth-year pro Michael Davis, who started all 12 games he appeared in last season.

Hayward is firmly established while Davis is still attempting to get there. Undrafted out of Brigham Young in 2017, Davis became a starter in 2018 after injuries opened an opportunity.

The Chargers value Davis’ speed but would love to see more playmaking from him, especially when it comes to producing turnovers. They were last in the league in 2019 with 14 takeaways.

The need to get the ball back for the offense figures to be a theme a year after Bradley’s defense struggled mightily to do so.

Under contract for 2020: Casey Hayward ($10.75 million), Chris Harris ($5.75 million), Michael Davis ($3.259 million), Desmond King ($2.203 million), Brandon Facyson ($753,334), Tevaughn Campbell $610,000).

Free agents: When Harris officially joins the Chargers, the team will have a deep and talented secondary, one built in part to combat offenses such as the one that helped Kansas City win the latest Super Bowl.

Draft: One of the top 2020 prospects is Jeff Okudah, a cornerback out of Ohio State. He leads a group of several projected to go in the first couple rounds, all of which has nothing to do with the Chargers. Among the team’s needs, this isn’t one expected to be addressed on the first couple days of the draft.

Roster decisions: With the addition of Harris and, assuming he isn’t traded, King likely will assume more of a safety role. The Chargers need to replace Adrian Phillips, who left for New England via free agency. King has excelled as a slot cornerback but does have the ability to play safety. Particularly in certain packages, he should continue to fit nicely into the Chargers’ scheme.


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