- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Denver Broncos reporter
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Any time the words "best" or "greatest" get tossed into a football sentence, it is usually little more than the starting point to an argument.
And current New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond, who played for the Seattle Seahawks last season, certainly cranked up one of those arguments Tuesday. As the Giants opened their offseason workouts this week, Thurmond, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with New York in free agency, said: "I'm the best slot corner in the league. I'll say that, for sure."
Yes, Thurmond has a Super Bowl ring, courtesy of the Seahawks' 35-point win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. And, yes, he's a quality nickel cornerback in the fast-paced, high-contact world of a defensive back who's asked to play in the slot.
But best slot cornerback in the league? No.
For that designation let's go to a 12-time Pro Bowl selection to make the call. And this past season when former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was asked about Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., Bailey said: "Chris has that ability to play on the outside and be one of the best in the league. He's smart, he studies, he's tough and competes on every play. But in the slot, at the nickel, he's the best in there. He can match up with anybody."
Sure, Bailey was Harris' teammate and mentor for three seasons. But Bailey doesn't say anybody is the best at anything if they're not. That's just not how he's wired.
Harris made the Broncos' roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and since has simply become one of the defense's most consistent and versatile players. Last season Harris started games on the outside, playing both sides of the formation. When the Broncos went to the nickel or dime, Harris was often in the slot.
And when Bailey returned from a foot injury last season and the Broncos tried to limit his snaps by using him as a nickel corner in the slot down the stretch, Bailey said Harris was a quality resource, "a guy I can talk to about playing in there, because everything happens fast, you almost have to know what the offense is doing as much as the receivers. I definitely can learn from him about playing in there."
Harris, who is still coming back from surgery to repair his ACL, took to Twitter to state his case Tuesday. After seeing Thurmond's comments, Harris sent:
I almost got Thurmond career #'s my rookie year lol I'm done now
— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) April 22, 2014
Harris, who was an unrestricted free agent, signed his one-year, $2.187 million tender and is rehabbing at the Broncos' complex. The Broncos expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
He will be the starter in one of the outside cornerback positions, with Aqib Talib in the other. But when the Broncos go to their specialty packages, Harris is again expected to get most of the reps in the slot. The Broncos hope Kayvon Webster, a 2013 draft pick, is ready for more work in the defense, but Webster would play in an outside spot when the Broncos go to their specialty looks, leaving Harris to bump down inside when offenses go with three or four wide receivers.
Any time the words "best" or "greatest" get tossed into a football sentence, it is usually little more than the starting point to an argument.And current New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond, who played for the Seattle Seahawks last season, certainly cranked up one of those arguments Tuesday.